Barbee's Tigers Close Regular Season At A&M

An Auburn basketball report features comments from Tony Barbee and Tajh Shamsid-Deen as the Tigers look to end a two-game losing streak with a road trip to Texas A&M.

Auburn, Ala.--Looking to build momentum heading into next week's SEC Men's Basketball Tournament and also end a two-game losing streak, Coach Tony Barbee's Tigers will close the regular season on Saturday at Texas A&M.

Tipoff is set for 3 p.m. CST from Reed Arena in College Station, Tex., where the Tigers will take on an opponent that is 17-13 overall and 8-9 in the SEC.

Auburn, at 13-15 overall and 5-12 in the conference, will be either the 11th or 12th seed for the SEC Tournament that starts on Wednesday in Atlanta at the Georgia Dome.

The Tigers' losing streak has coincided with back-to-back awful offensive performances by the team's leading scorer, Chris Denson, who finished with a season-low three points in a Wednesday night loss to Tennessee.

Against the Vols the senior made just 1-10 field goals and 1-3 free throws. Last Saturday at Alabama he hit just 2-15 field goals and scored what was then a season-low six points.

"We have had some talks and meetings with Chris," Barbee said of the guard, who has dropped his scoring average from 20.9 points per game to 19.3.

"How you take the pressure off of scoring is you worry about doing other things, the little things--defending, rebounding, coming up with 50-50 balls, leading, talking, communicating.

"When you take the pressure off of scoring then scoring comes naturally when you can score like he does," Barbee added. "I think he has been thinking too much about leading the SEC in scoring."

Freshman point guard Tajh Shamsid-Deen, who has boosted his scoring average to 9.8 points per game, said than Denson is too good of a scorer to not break out of his slump. "Every player goes through these ruts and times when they can't but a bucket," Shamsid-Deen said. "Chris is a great player. He is definitely going to get through it. We need him and he knows we need him."

Jamal Jones, a 6-8, 197 junior guard, is averaging 13 points and 4.1 rebounds for Texas A&M. Kourtney Roberson, a 6-9, 244 junior, is scoring 9.7 points per game while averaging 6.8 rebounds per contest.

Alex Caruso, a 6-5, 183 sophomore, who moved to point guard this season. He is averaging 8.5 points, 4.1 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game.

"He has really developed into a really good point guard," Barbee said of Caruso. "He was not their point guard last year, he was a small forward for them, and he has really transformed into a good point guard.

"His size is a difficult match-up. A 6-6 point guard who can pass the way he does, defend and disrupt the game the way he does on the defensive end of the floor make him a little bit different. Then they have guys like Jamal Jones who can really stretch the floor and shoot the ball. He's probably one of the better shooters in our conference."

Antwan Space, a 6-8, 224 sophomore, averages 5.7 points and 4.5 rebounds per game while 6-5, 188 junior guard Jordan Green is scoring 7.1 points per contest with 2.2 rebounds per contest for Texas A&M.

The Aggies lead the series 5-2 vs. Auburn heading into Saturday's contest that will be carried on SEC TV.

Tajh Shamsid-Deen has been a regular in the starting lineup this season.

With the Tigers in jeopardy of having a fourth consecutive losing season under Barbee's guidance, Shamsid-Deen was asked if talk about their coach's job security is something on the minds of the players.

"We really aren't worried about that," the freshman said. "We are just focused on these next upcoming games--get this win on Saturday and make a run in the SEC Tournament."

Asked what he will talk about with Athletic Director Jay Jacobs when reviewing the season and looking ahead to next season, Barbee said, "The only thing I am focused on is Texas A&M. I haven't even given next year this thought because this year isn't over."

Jacobs said in evaluating Barbee's job performance the focus will be on improvement in the team's SEC play. The Tigers finished last season with a 3-15 SEC record and were 9-19 overall.

News and Notes: Senior Asauhn Dixon-Tatum, who often doesn't look to take a shot, hit 5-6 field goals vs. Tennessee. Asked about the seven-foot center's potential to repeat that performance, Barbee said, "It's a confidence thing. He is another guy that has transformed over the last month, playing his best basketball. It's unfortunate we have some other individuals going the other way. If we can get them back coupled with how Asauhn is playing, then we can make some noise down the stretch."...Freshman forward Alex Thompson saw his playing time rise earlier in SEC play, but in recent games he has been watching the action from the sidelines. Asked about Thompson's status, Barbee said, "He is not hurt, it's just a confidence issue with him. He's gotten into a little bit of a rut in practice with his confidence and so I have gone with Jordon Granger."... Either junior guard K.T. Harrell or Denson has led Auburn in scoring in 26 of the 28 games. With Denson averaging 19.3 points per game and Harrell 18.4, those Tigers ranked No. 2 and No. 6 among the SEC scoring leaders and are the sixth-ranked highest scoring teammates nationally.


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