Tigers Looking For Bench Production

Auburn heads to the hills of Arkansas looking for its first SEC win of the season.

Coach Tony Barbee's Auburn basketball Tigers will be looking for increased production from the bench on Saturday evening as they try to snap a five-game losing streak, win their first SEC game and avoid going below the .500 mark for the first time this season.

The 8-8 Tigers will try to accomplish that at Bud Walton Arena on the University of Arkansas campus. Tipoff is set for 5 p.m. CST vs. the Razorbacks, who are 12-6 overall and 1-4 in the SEC.

Since the start of SEC play Auburn's starting five of guards K.T. Harrell, Chris Denson and Tahj Shamsid-Deen along with center Asauhn Dixon-Tatum and forward Allen Payne have scored 90 percent of the team's points while playing 730 of the 1,000 minutes of game time.

During that stretch the Tigers are averaging 66.4 points per contest with non-starters providing just 6.4 points per game in league play. In Auburn's last outing, an 82-74 loss at Mississippi State on Wednesday night, all of the Tigers' points came from the starters.

Asked if he plans to substitute early to try to get the bench players into the flow of the game vs. Arkansas, a team that normally relies on a heavy substitution pattern, Barbee said, "They have got to make a conscious effort to get themselves into the game when they get on the floor. That is what opportunity is about. You can play five guys 40 minutes so when those guys get their opportunities off the bench they have got to be ready to contribute."

The following are Auburn's top five scoring averages of the non-starters and their high point games this season.

*Point guard Malcolm Canada--3.6 points per game, 10 points vs. Jacksonville State

*Guard Dion Wade--3.2 points per game, 15 points vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff

*Center Benas Griciunas--2.0 points per game, 8 points vs. Jacksonville State

*Center Matthew Atewe--2.0 points, 6 points vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff

*Forward Alex Thompson--1.6 points, 8 points vs. Missouri

Dion Wade is a freshman for the Tigers.

Against Mississippi State the subs took a total of just three shots. "You can't win when you get no production off the bench," Barbee said.

Commenting on the Razorbacks, Barbee pointed out they are difficult to defeat in Fayetteville because the crowds get into the games and because Arkansas plays a more aggressive, full-court press style in home games than they do on the road. "They are one of the few teams, not just in our conference, but all of college basketball, that play 11 or 12 guys," he said.

"I have never seen a team like (Arkansas) that plays so different at home and on the road," the coach added. "They are a team that presses 94 feet for 40 minutes at home and they press very little on the road. That is their staple."

Griciunas, who averaged 14 points in the two preseason exhibition wins, has been sidelined in recent games due to an injury, but has been practicing with the team. However, Barbee said on Friday that the seven-footer is still trying to get well and probably will not be available on Saturday.

With Griciunas not playing and Atewe having foul issues and still recovering from a stress fracture in his leg, Dixon-Tatum has seen extended playing time. Against Mississippi State the center produced a career-high 13 rebounds and tied his season high point total with 12. Barbee said with the athleticism the seven-footer possesses he should be producing those type of numbers on a regular basis instead of averaging 6.3 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.

The Tigers also got a double-double in Starkville from senior forward Alan Payne, his second of the season and third of his career as he scored 12 points and pulled in 10 rebounds as he gets closer to 100 percent after suffering a hamstring injury in the SEC opener at Ole Miss.

"I thought Asuahn played well and I thought Allen Payne played well so it was good to get production from two guys on our front line," Barbee said of his team's performance vs. Mississippi State.

Prior to Wednesday the last time the Tigers had two players with double-doubles in the same contest was on March 5, 2011 when Kenny Gabriel (16 points and 11 rebounds) and Earnest Ross (16 points, 10 rebounds) did it on the road vs. LSU.

Barbee noted that even though the loss to Mississippi State was disappointing, he has no complaints. "Our guys fought hard, we had a chance and now we have to get ready for Arkansas," he said.

Harrell is leading the Tigers in scoring at 19.3 points per game, Denson is next at 18.9 and Shamsid-Deen is third with 8.8 points per contest.

Denson scored just nine vs. Mississippi State while Harrell finished with 24 points. "K.T. had a big night and Chris had an okay night," Barbee said. "He (Denson) didn't struggle, he just had an okay night. We have to get both of those guys going on the same night, especially at a place like Arkansas."

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