Basketball Tigers Cruise Past Paine 99-64

Auburn finished its men's basketball preseason 4-0 with a victory over Paine College.

Auburn, Ala.--In their final tune-up a week prior to the regular season opener, guards K.T. Harrell and Chris Denson led the Auburn Tigers to a 99-64 exhibition basketball victory on Friday night.

Harrell, a junior transfer from the University of Virginia, hit 9-14 shots on the way to scoring a game-high 25 points.

Denson, a senior and the leading returning scorer on last year's team, made 8-10 field goals as he scored 24 points.

Five Tigers finished the night scoring in double figures with Tajh Shamsid-Deen, Asauhn Dixon-Tatum and Benas Griciunas chipping in with 11 points apiece.

Auburn coach Tony Barbee said he was pleased with the unselfish play of his team in its final tune-up before the season opener at home next Friday (Nov. 8) against Nicholls State.

"That is the type of team we want to be," Barbee said of the balanced scoring attack. "We don't want to be a team where it is just one guy. We want to be a team that for the season has five guys in double figures and as close to six as possible.

"We want that five or six to be a different guy every game," Barbee added. "Those are the teams that are hard to cover. Those are the teams that are successful. We are sharing the ball and are playing for each other."

The Tigers led 52-31 at halftime and took complete control with a 15-0 run during the second half to stretch the lead to 73-38 with 12:24 to play.

Tajh Shamsid-Deen drives for the Tigers. He finished the game with seven assists and one turnover.

Harrell agreed with Barbee that the Tigers have a team featuring a variety of players who can carry the load offensively. "The thing is, it is not just Chris and I who can score," he said. "It is scary. We have a lot of guys who can put points up on the board, but Chris and I really mesh together. I think that will cause a lot of trouble this year."

The Tigers shot 56.9 percent from the field and hit 9-20 threes along with 16-20 free throws.

Paine made 35.5 percent of its field goals. The visitors made 6-22 threes and 12-23 free throws.

Auburn held a 39-36 edge in rebounds and committed 13 turnovers while Paine finished with 20 turnovers.

"We are making the extra pass, we're sacrificing, we are passing up good shots to make sure he gets the great shot and that makes the game easy for everybody," Barbee said of his team, which finished its preseason with four exhibition game victories and no losses including two August victories in The Bahamas.

The Tigers opened with a three-guard lineup featuring Shamsid-Deen at the point, Harrell and Denson as the shooting guards, veteran senior Dixon-Tatum at center and junior transfer Chris Griffin at forward in place of senior Allen Payne, who started Auburn's 109-67 exhibition win over Victory University on Monday.

Griffin, who finished with nine points, opened thescoring for the Tigers with a three-pointer, followed quickly by Harrell with another three to set the early tone against the NCAA Division II Paine squad that plays in the Southern Intercollegiate Conference (SIAC).

Auburn stretched its lead to 41-25 with 6:54 left in the half as Denson heated up with nine points over a five-minute stretch, including a pair of three-pointers to join Harrell with 12 points each at that juncture.

The half ended with the Tigers leading 52-31, their biggest lead in the first 20 minutes. Denson had 18 points and Harrell 12 to give Auburn two double figures scorers at intermission.

Auburn connected on 19-of-35 first-half shots for 54.3 percent and an impressive 6-12 three-point attempts.

The Tigers extended their lead to 73-38 eight minutes into the second half by outscoring Paine 21-7 at the outset of the half. Harrell led the way with seven points during that stretch. Auburn's biggest lead came with 10:10 at 36 points and the score 80-44.

Harrell was asked about the one-two punch at the guard spots. "Chris and I are aggressive players," he said. "We look to score, but we are not selfish. No one on this team is selfish. We shot the ball really well. We just tried to look for our shot. It is really beneficial for the team."

Dixon-Tatum said he believes the Tigers are ready to move forward in a positive direction. He and freshman center Griciunas combined for 22 points and 14 rebounds.

"Fourteen rebounds between Asauhn (Dixon-Tatum) and Benas (Griciunas) is a decent number," Barbee said. "I mean, 22 points and 14 rebounds, we will take that every single night out.

"Those guys still have got to do some things defensively," the coach said. "They've got to be better on ball screens and those two have got to be better at clogging the paint defensively. That's what a center is by nature--he's got to a paint protector or a rim protector, and those two have got to get better at it."

Barbee's main criticism came when he noted the Tigers allowed 20 offensive rebounds.

"We are very concerned because we are not going to out-talent anybody or out-score anybody, and that comes down to our man defense, rebounding the basketball and winning the battle of the loose balls, the 50/50 balls, and that was glaring tonight as a weakness," the coach said. "We talked about it and we will work on that in practice this week as we get ready for the real thing."

One of the players the Tigers will be counting on for rebounding, 6-9 center Matthew Attewe, was held out of the game as he continues to recover from a leg injury. The freshman also missed the previous exhibition game.

Dixon-Tatum was the recipient of a beautiful alley-oop pass for a slam dunk from the freshman point guard Shamsid-Deen that drew a loud roar from the crowd listed at 3,661 that appeared to be much smaller. Shamsid-Deen totaled seven assists and two steals to go with his 11 points.

"Tahj and I are working on that in practice--him and I have that point guard-center connection," Dixon-Tatum explained. "We are all close knit and working on making this brotherhood gell." It has been great."

Commenting on his team's defensive work, Barbee noted the Tigers used several different looks on Friday night.

"We've got a variety," he said. "Our man is our staple, it's our identity, it's who we are and it wasn't very good tonight, but when we need to change tempo we have got a couple zones that we can go to.

"We can play small and quick, we can play big and long and lanky and we worked on all of those tonight and they were pretty effective because we got them to take some quick, tough shots against the zone. You've got guys in their position to take off and go, and we're a good team when we get stops and we get out in transition."

The Tigers outscored Paine 21-5 in points off turnovers and dominated 52-28 on points in the paint. They finished with 13 steals to only two by Paine.

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