Granger Returns As AU Takes On No. 7 Florida

Coach Tony Barbee's Tigers are looking for their first SEC win of the season vs. a hot Florida team.

Auburn, Ala.--With the SEC's top team visiting on Saturday, Tony Barbee's basketball Tigers are going to need all of the help they can get.

On Friday afternoon at practice the Auburn head coach was on the court in his basketball shoes giving individual instruction to six-foot-eight sophomore forward Jordon Granger, who did not make the road trip to Auburn's Wednesday night game at Tennessee.

Auburn was overpowered on the boards in Knoxville as the Volunteers finished plus 14 in rebound margin in a 78-67 victory.

In both of Auburn's SEC road games Granger was left behind, but he played in the home game last Saturday vs. Missouri and Barbee said on Friday that Granger will play against the Gators.

Barber has not given any reason why Granger has not been allowed to travel with the team since SEC play began. Asked on Friday if the sophomore will only play home games the rest of the season, the coach said, "We'll see. We still have some hurdles to cross."

However, for Saturday's 3 p.m. tipoff at Auburn Arena the forward is expected to be available, something the Tigers need with starting forward Allen Payne less than full speed with a hamstring injury and his backup, Chris Griffin, suspended from the team.

Granger has started one time and played in nine otther games this season. He is averaging 10.5 minutes per contest along with 2.3 rebounds and 1.0 point per contest. He left the team for what Barbee said were "personal reasons" prior to the Arkansas-Pine Bluff game on Dec. 30th, but returned for last Saturday's game vs. Missouri.

"We need him to be a presence on both ends of the floor," Barbee said of Granger. "He is a capable offensive player as well. I think he struggles a little with his confidence at times...This game is based on self-belief on how good you are."

The Tigers may have reason to doubt how good they are as they enter Saturday's contest 0-3 in the SEC and 8-6 overall. They will face an opponent that is 14-2 overall and 3-0 in the league.

Barbee said he is impressed when he watches video of the Gators. "I see a talented team that scores the ball in a variety of ways, but above and beyond their offense it is how tough they are on the defensive end of the floor. They are relentless on that end of the floor and that is what makes Florida what they are."

Guards Scotty Wilbekin and Michael Frazier lead the Gators in scoring at 12.4 points per contest while 6-9 post player Patric Young is averaging 10.8 points and 6.3 rebounds.

The Tigers are looking for their first win vs. Florida since the 2009 SEC Tournament. The last regular season victory vs. the Gators came in 1999.

Commenting on the Tigers, Barbee said, "My team's mindset has been great. Those guys have been competitive. They have been competing, they have been pushing each other, they have been working hard in practice, they have been fighting in the games.

"Like I told our guys, we just have to keep doing what we are doing, being tough-minded, keep throwing punches," the coach said. "Let's continue to make stops, the necessary stops, and we are going to have our break-through. And then when we have our break-through the lid is off. That is where we are right now."

After going into league play ranked No. 1 in the SEC in free throw shooting, the Tigers are last in the league in that statistic in conference games. The Tigers have dropped to seventh place in the league at 68.0 percent.

"I wish I had the explanation," Barbee said of his team's misses at the foul line that have been the difference between being 0-3 in the league and 1-2 or 2-1 in SEC play.

One area of the team that Barbee has liked in recent outings has been the offensive execution. "We have been very efficient on the offensive end of the floor," he said. "I thought we had great looks against Tennessee. I thought we missed a lot of really great looks in that Tennessee game when we had our chances."

Saturday's game will be televised on the SEC Network.

Tajh Shamsid-Deen has been playing well for the Tigers. He is averaging 8.4 points and 3.4 assists per contest.

Freshman point guard Tajh Shamsid-Deen said the Tigers are focused on getting a much-needed league victory. Their streak of SEC losses is up to 13 dating back to last season. "Honestly, it is to get over this little hump we haven't been able to get over these past couple of games," the point guard said.

"We have been real close at the end we just haven't been able to finish," Shamsid-Deen said. "We plan on keeping games close and at the end of games we plan on having a different outcome."

Asked what the Tigers need to do to have a different outcome, the freshman said, "Play tougher, rebound and defend. The last couple of games we have been out-rebounded by a lot so that has been an emphasis."

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