Tigers, Illini Meet on Sunday In Atlanta

Tony Barbee's basketball Tigers will take on Illinois of the Big Ten at Philips Arena in Atlanta.

Atlanta, Ga.--Coach Tony Barbee's Auburn basketball team will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing performance in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge when the Tigers play Illinois on Sunday.

Tipoff time for the game is 2 p.m. CST (3 p.m. local) time at Philips Arena in Atlanta. The game will be televised on Fox Sports South.

Auburn, which is 4-2, is trying to rebound from a 99-70 loss at No. 17 Iowa State. Illinois is also trying to get back on the winning track. The 7-1 Illini dropped a 67-64 road game in Atlanta on Tuesday vs. Georgia Tech as the Yellow Jackets closed the game with a 19-4 run.

Sunday's game is the rematch from a game Illinois won 81-79 last year at the United Center in Chicago.

Asked what the Tigers found out about their team from their loss at Iowa State, junior guard K.T. Harrell said, "We learned that we have to get better. Nobody is down after that loss. We came out really strong, but our energy died because we weren't making any shots. We can't allow that to happen. We still have to get stops."

Auburn led most of the first 10 minutes of the game at Iowa State, but the Cyclones got hot from three-point range and took control of the boards on the way to what turned into a lopsided victory.

"In that game we started missing shots and guys started tightening up a little bit," Harrell said. "We are going to miss shots in the game, but you have to keep trying to be aggressive and try and put it in the basket."

The Tigers also struggled to rebound against the Cyclones, even though Iowa State was not a big team. "It is one of the most important things of the game," Harrell said. "We have to attack the glass."

Auburn looks to have another major challenge in the Tigers' final game before breaking for final exams. Illinois is 20-2 in regular season non-conference games since John Groce took over as head coach.

Rayvonte Rice leads the Illini.

"They are a good team," Barbee said. "They lost quite a bit from last year, but they are a very good team. They have great size and really good guard play. (Rayvonte) Rice reminds me a lot of K.T. (Harrell) in their games. He is capable of going and getting 30 points so it's going to be a difficult matchup."

Rice, a 6-4, 235 redshirt junior guard, leads Illinois in scoring with 18.0 points per game. Joseph Bertrand, a 6-6 senior guard, is averaging 11.5 points and 6.9 rebounds while 6-2 junior guard Tracy Abrams is the other Illinois starter scoring in double figures at 10.6 per contest.

Senior guard Chris Denson leads Auburn in scoring at 21.8 points per game and Harrell is scoring 17. 7.

Chris Denson drives to the basket.

Barbee is hoping for a good turnout of Auburn fans who live in the area as well as fans in town for Saturday's SEC Football Championship Game.

"We have a lot of great fans and alumni in the Atlanta area and it's good from that perspective," he said, noting that it is the type of game that should help prepare the Tigers for SEC play.

Commenting on what he saw from his team's loss at Iowa State, Barbee said, "We can't let our offense beat us. We took so many bad shots in that game that led to easy baskets for them. The quality of our shots have to be important and knowing when and who we are trying to get them for. That was one of the things.

"The second, and probably most important one, is at the end of the day toughness matters," the coach added. "I thought they out-toughed us in a lot of aspects of the game."

Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories