Tigers Looking to End Slump And Sweep Series

The Auburn basketball team will look to end a losing streak on Tuesday evening in Tuscaloosa.

Auburn, Ala.--Tony Barbee said he wants to see his team play with more mental toughness and more pride when the Tigers take the court on Tuesday night vs. Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

"We are getting off to fairly decent starts during games and then something happens during the course of a game where it just seems we fall apart for whatever reason," Auburn's head basketball coach says. "I have no idea what that is.

"We will stop defending, we will stop executing," Barbee says. "Easy shots--layups, free throws, post-ups, jumpers wide open--don't go down and we let that adversity spill into the next thing and then it is hard to get them to refocus when it starts to go bad or the wrong way. That is what it looks like from my perspective."

Tipoff is set for shortly after 6 p.m. CST and the game will be televised on ESPNU. Auburn won the first game between the two teams on Feb. 6th by a score of 49-37.

Auburn hasn't won a game since that contest and goes into Tuesday's game with a five-game losing streak along with a record of 9-18 overall, 3-11 in the SEC.

Barbee says in practice the Tigers focus on trying to play with more consistency. "Obviously, the adversity of the season we are having is affecting it in some ways, but as a player, and as a member of a program or a family, you have got to take more pride in your craft.

"You have got to play with more pride, more joy for your craft or why else do you do this?"

The coach says he is seeing signs of the younger players on the team making progress, but notes there is too much inconsistency, even though that it so be expected from new players. What is not expected is a lack of consistency from game to game from the veteran players. "It is just frustrating that our old guys have been so inconsistent," the coach says.

"I thought Shaq (guard Shaquille Johnson) had the best game of his career," Barbee says of the freshman's play vs. Ole Miss. "He was aggressive. He is getting more comfortable with the ball in his hands and that has been his transition. He has been a center his whole career. Now he is trying to move out to the perimeter. It is starting to come together for him out there.

Auburn freshman guard Shaquille Johnson is averaging better than 10 points per contest in his last five games.

"All of the young guys have had their moments, but as a team we need to have a moment--and not one or two guys here and there," Barbee adds.

With four games left in the regular season, the coach says he has told the seniors this is their last chance to make a statement about their collegiate careers. For the returning players, the coach's message is about building momentum for the program beyond this season.

"All of the guys returning we are talking to them about the culture of what this is about," the coach says. "Whether you win or lose, it is about how hard you compete, how hard you fight and how you have to do that together. That is what I want to see from the guys who are returning.

"With the seniors I want to see them continue to fight," he adds. "They have got only five guaranteed games before their career ends. I keep talking to them about how do they want to go out? How do they want to be remembered here?"

Senior Frankie Sullivan says a good finish would be a positive for the younger players on the team and the program in general. "We are just trying to stay positive," he says, noting the season has been very different than he and other players were expecting.

"Hopefully, we will try to get it rolling a little bit this year and help the team out by being positive for next year," the guard adds.

Sullivan and his team ended a streak of five consecutive losses the last time they played Alabama. The senior says he believes his team will be ready to give a good "rivalry game" defensive effort like the Tigers did in the first Alabama game in which they limited the Tide to the lowest number of points Alabama has scored in the history of the series.

The Tide comes into the game with an 18-9 overall record and a 10-4 mark in SEC play. Sullivan says if the Tigers can spoil Alabama's chances of earning an NCAA bid that would be good thing for the Tigers.

129 And Counting: Sullivan is tied with Frank Ford and Scott Pohlman for the most games played in Auburn history with 129 heading into Tuesday's contest. He is 10th all-time in points scored with 1,488. He needs 42 more to catch No. 9 on the list, Marquis Daniels.

Brian Greene is a freshman guard for the Tigers.

News and Notes: Chris Denson, the team's second leading scorer, played just three minutes in Auburn's previous game. "I didn't think he was defending very well," Barbee says of the reason why the junior guard played so little vs. Ole Miss. "He wasn't giving it his all defensively. If you don't play on that end of the floor, you don't play."

Freshman Hopeful: Guard Brian  Greene Jr. says that he believes the Tigers have the opportunity to snap out of their funk and make a run in the SEC Tournament. "Anything is possible," he says, noting that Georgia came into the league tournament with a losing record in 2008, but earned an NCAA Tournament bid with by winning the tournament that year. "We are not counting ourselves out," says Greene.

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