Barbee Fired As Tigers Fall in SEC Tourney

Tony Barbee's four-year run as head coach of the Tigers is done as he was fired after the Tigers lost to South Carolina in the SEC Tournament.

Atlanta, Ga.--Tony Barbee has been fired as Auburn's head coach following his team's opening round SEC Tournament loss to South Carolina on Wednesday night.

Following the game Auburn Athletic Director Jay Jacobs told Inside the Auburn Tigers that Barbee is out after four seasons as head coach of the Tigers.

"After careful evaluation of the last four years, I feel this is best for the program," Jacobs said. "I believe we should compete for championships in men's basketball. It is time for somebody else to have a turn. We need to find somebody to come in here and take what we have here now, put some more in and compete for SEC titles.

"As I said last year, I hoped to see significant improvement this season," Jacobs said. "Unfortunately, the results fell short of my expectations. As Athletics Director I expect more from our basketball program. That is why I believe it is time to move in a new direction."

South Carolina nailed 11-15 threes on the way to a 74-56 victory over the Tigers on Wednesday night at the Georgia Dome. The Gamecocks also dominated the boards, out-rebounding Auburn 39-25.

Combine that with 16 turnovers from the Tigers and 38.1 percent shooting from the field and Auburn's season ended with a 14-16 record.

It was a fourth consecutive one-and-done at the SEC Tournament since Tony Barbee took over as head coach and also a fourth consecutive losing season.

Barbee said Wednesday night after the game he has not received any feedback from Athletic Director Jay Jacobs on whether or not he would return for a fifth season. He did note that he is planning to meet with Jacobs when he returns to Auburn, but Jacobs pulled the plug on Barbee's tenure before the meeting.

After the loss players on the team said they want Barbee back for the 2014-15 season. One of those players, freshman guard Dion Wade, said, "This is a process, but the process is going upwards rather than downwards. With the players we have coming back, we have an opportunity to win a lot of games next year."

Asked his thought's on Barbee's status, Wade said, "Obviously, I came here to play for him. It would hurt a lot if we lose him. I have faith in Auburn and hopefully we can keep him."

Junior guard K.T. Harrell said he wants Barbee to return, too, and said that he plans to be back for his senior season despite rumors he might leave for pro basketball. "Absolutely, I am coming back," Harrell said. "I don't know where the rumors came from that I wasn't. I plan on coming back and being a part of this."

Barbee said he was "absolutely" certain he had the strong support of the players. "I love those guys and those guys love me, and they played their hearts out for me this year. I am proud of those guys. I am proud of the fight they showed all year long."

Asked if producing a winning team at Auburn was more of a challenge than he expected, Barbee said there are no easy job anywhere and he told Jacobs and AU president Dr. Jay Gogue it was going to be a bumpy road in the rebuilding process.

Asked if the job is tougher to rebuild at Auburn for any reason, Barbee said, "There are no different challenges at Auburn than any other university's basketball program faces. It is just a matter of getting it over the hump and then it will turn the other way."

Chris Denson closed his Auburn career with a team-high 14 points. Auburn's only other scorer in double figures, Harrell, finished with 13 points.

South Carolina's defense gave Denson problems as he tried to drive to the basket. The senior had just two points in the first half.

"They definitely clogged the paint more this game," said Denson, who had big scoring games in Auburn's two regular seaosn victories over the Gamecocks. "The first two games I feel like I was tiptoeing to the hole, but they definitely scouted well and they definitely took my driving lanes away."

Allen Payne and Asauhn Dixon-Tatum scored eight apiece in their final college games.

South Carolina, which advances to Thursday's second round game vs. Arkansas, got 23 points off the bench from Duane Notice, who nailed all four of his three-pointers while pulling in 10 rebounds.

"He was making shots, he was making threes," Payne said of Notice. "Our scouting report on him was that he's a driver and he got hot and made some tough shots from the perimeter and he really led the charge for them tonight offensively."

Brenton Williams scored 16 for the Gamecocks while Mindaugas Kacinas scored eight points and pulled in 10 rebounds.

Auburn led early in the game, but South Carolina took control on the strength of good shooting from three-point range and at the foul line.

The Gamecocks hit 7-10 treys in the first half while jumping out to a 38-26 halftime advantage. The Gamecocks made 7-8 free throws with Williams going 4-4 at the foul line and 4-6 behind the three-point line.

Auburn's first half shooting couldn't keep pace. The Tigers hit 8-22 field goals, 4-10 threes and 6-9 free throws while being out-rebounded 20-11.

The Tigers also hurt their cause with 11 first half turnovers, one more than South Carolina.

"We probably played about as well as we have played all year," South Carolina coach Frank Martin said. "And now we get to live another day and that's all you ask for at this time of year."

Stats of the Game, Part 1: South Carolina outscored Auburn 33-15 in three-point field goals with Auburn making 5-15 and the Gamecocks hitting 11-15.

Stats of the Game, Part 2: The Gamecocks finished the game with 17 offensive rebounds, which Barbee said was significant. "When you look at it I don't their first shot offense beat us in this game. It was the 17 offensive rebounds they collected in this game."

Worth Noting, Part 1: Auburn's lack of bench scoring has been a season-long problem. On Wednesday night the Gamecocks' bench outscored the Tigers 34-9.

Worth Noting, Part 2: The Gamecocks outscored the Tigers 22-6 in second-chance points and 23-13 in points off of turnovers.

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