Tigers Improve Defense And Cruise Past JSU

Auburn picked up its second victory of the basketball season with a 78-54 decision vs. the Jacksonville State University Gamecocks.

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn basketball Tigers outshot Jacksonville State by 10 percentage points and enjoyed a 47-34 rebounding edge as they cruised to a 78-54 basketball victory on Tuesday night.

Senior guard Chris Denson led the Tigers in scoring with 15 points while junior guard K.T. Harrell added 14 points.

Senior center Asauhn Dixon-Tatum was the top rebounder for the Tigers with seven while adding nine points, two blocks and a steal.

Coach Tony Barbee said he liked the 32 points from his bench, improved play on defense and the rebounding in the second half after not being pleased with it in the opening period.

Box Score

Barbee noted that the Tigers concentrated on defense in practice the past two days after giving up 111 points in a loss to Northwestern State.

Harrell said that emphasis on defense showed vs. the Gamecocks, who hit just 18-52 field goals (34.2 percent) while Auburn made 26-58 field goals (44.8 percent). "It was a lot better than last game," Harrell said. "We scrambled and we communicated at a higher level. We took a step forward today, but we definitely have to get a lot better."

Barbee agreed with Harrell. "I was happy with our defense tonight," the coach said. "We paid a little more attention to detail on the defensive end of the floor. It is all we did the last two days and it showed.

"The outcome of us being able to play defense is that we were able to get out in transition and do some things out in the open court where we are really pretty good," Barbee said. "We showed flashes of the type of team we can be when we are locked in on the defensive end of the floor."

Barbee said he challenged his team at halftime to do a better job as a group with the rebounding and the Tigers finished the night with a 47-33 advantage on the boards. "Collectively, we have to swarm on the backboard and we did that in the second half," he said.

Stat of the Game: After giving 111 points in a loss to Northwestern State, holding the Gamecocks to less than half that total was a big deal for the Tigers.

Worth Noting: Newcomer Malcolm Canada came off the bench and scored 10 points in 15 minutes of court time at point guard. The juco transfer hit 2-4 field goals and 6-7 free throws while adding a steal.

Missing Man: Juco transfer Chris Griffin was not with the team on Tuesday night after going home for a family emergency that could keep him away for an extended period of time. When the 6-six-foot-seven forward will return to the team is not certain. "We support Chris and look forward to him coming back and being a part of our team and a part of our family," Barbee said.

With Griffin out freshman forward Alex Thompson from Houston Academy in Dothan got nine minutes of playing time and contributed four rebounds and a point.

"Now the next man has to be ready and Alex has been working his tail off for his opportunity," Barbee said. "When you have a great attitude like he does, and he has been working his tail off in practice from day one to today, then he was ready for his opportunity.

"You could tell he had some nervous jitters out there on that shot," Barbee said of a jumper from the corner that hit the side of the backboard. "I thought somebody opened the door and a stiff breeze came through," the coach joked.

Barbee added, "He played good tonight. He brings us a lot of energy on the floor. He gives us great length when we put him on the wing and he is big enough and active enough to play one of the inside positions, too.

Auburn took control of the game early and the Gamecocks, who fell to 0-5 for the season, never made a run at the Tigers. D.J. Felder led the visitors with 16 points and 12 rebounds.

Halftime Numbers: The Tigers shot 48.7 percent from the field while going 0-5 on threes. They hit 7-10 first half free throws. Auburn held a 20-17 edge in rebounds. Denson led all scorers with 11 points at the break as Auburn led 33-19.

The Gamecocks shot 30.8 percent in the opening half and hit 1-4 free throws and 2-7 threes.

Postgame Numbers: Auburn committed just nine turnovers, five fewer than the Gamecocks. The Tigers hit 23-31 free throws and 3-10 treys while JSU hit 12-14 free throws and 6-15 threes.

Up Next: The Tigers return to action with a 7 p.m. home game on Saturday vs. Murray State.

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