Tigers Bring the Payne Vs. Rattlers

Auburn senior forward Allen Payne and the Tigers extended their basketball winning streak.

Ala.--Auburn matched last season's basketball victory total as the Tigers defeated Florida A&M 81-50 on Saturday night at Auburn Arena.

It was a fourth consecutive victory for Coach Tony Barbee's Tigers in their final game before moving into conference play on Thursday at Ole Miss.

Auburn improved its record to 8-3 while the visiting Rattlers dropped to 4-11.

The Tigers shot 48.8 percent from the field while the visitors struggled with their shooting, hitting just 14-64 shots (21.9 percent).

The Tigers put three players into double figures led by K.T. Harrell, the junior guard, who continued his hot streak scoring-wise with 22 points.

K.T. Harrell shoots on Saturday night.

Senior guard Chris Denson scored 19 for Auburn as he hit 8-13 shots.

The most impressive all-around performance came from senior forward Allen Payne, who had one of his top games as he finished with 16 points, 13 rebounds and five assists.

For Payne it was his second collegiate double-double and it was his career-best for assists. He hit 7-13 field goals.

"I just told him in front of the team that he is capable of this every night," Barbee said. "I didn't run a ton of plays for him, if any, tonight. This was all heart, desire, relentlessness and he played harder than anybody on the floor.

"When you have talent like he has, that is the end result," Barbee added. "You can put up some pretty good numbers. I told him he is capable of doing this no matter who we play the rest of the way and we expect it because it is contagious. I thought from the beginning of the game he was playing hard, but not everybody was playing at that level. When you have one guy playing like that, it becomes contagious and everyone caught up to him."

The Tigers led 38-27 at halftime with Payne leading the way. He scored 13 points and added 11 rebounds prior to intermission.

Auburn pulled away in the second half by shooting 51.9 percent from the field in the period.

Commenting on his performance, Payne said, "I just wanted to be more aggressive. We have all heard Coach say that he's looking for guys to step up and produce. With me playing nearly 30 minutes a game, I definitely took on that challenge. I had a good week of practice leading up to this one and it just carried over."

Payne said the Tigers are playing better basketball in their recent games. "We're very confident," he said. "We were especially after those two ACC wins that we had and I think it's showed in the past two games. In past years, we may have struggled to play the competition of lower teams like that; but we've dominated these past two games. I think it's allowed us to have some good momentum going into the SEC."

The Tigers finished with double-digit in blocks for a second consecutive contest with 10. Senior Asauhn Dixon-Tatum and freshman Matthew Atewe had four apiece while Chris Griffin added two blocks. Griffin added nine points and seven rebounds while Dixon-Tatum also had seven rebounds as the Tigers finished with a season-high 56 rebounds, 18 more than the Rattlers.

Barbee said the Tigers have been working on rebounding in practice. "I have been talking about it for a long time, but we didn't get what that picture looked like. We had to do some things in practice and drills that the only way you could win those drills is if you got more rebounds. I think it has paid off.

"Allen Payne really set the pace tonight," Barbee pointed out. "He was a monster tonight. He was on it defensively and offensively. He got it going early on. He got us two or three offensive rebounds in a row to set the tone. Not only did he have 16 points and 13 rebounds, he also had five assists and zero turnovers. That is what seniors are supposed to do."

Barbee said the four-game winning streak is a major plus for his team heading into SEC play. "I think it is big, especially with the young guys we have on this team. I think they have confidence in themselves and they have confidence in a group. They have done this together. They have done it for each other. They have competed, played hard and battled every single possession.

"It is good for these guys to get the feeling of winning these games because we played hard, tough, with emotion and desire," the coach added. "It starts with our seniors. They have set the tone in these practices that have carried over into games. I think now that our older guys have confidence, it gives these younger guys confidence for what we are about to go through."

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