Struggling Tigers Look To Rebound Against Bulldogs

The Tigers'basketball team looks to end thier SEC slide at home Saturday agaisnt Georgia.

Auburn, Ala.--The struggling Tigers will look to rebound from a 2-6 record in the first half of SEC play as they begin the second half of the league schedule at home Saturday against Georgia.

The Bulldogs are struggling as well with an 11-8 overall mark, which is equal to Auburn's, but Georgia has managed one more win in conference at 3-5. However, the Bulldogs do have a couple of big time victories on its resume.

"Well, Georgia has had some impressive wins," Auburn's Cliff Ellis says about the Bulldogs. "About as impressive as anybody could have when you look at their wins against Kentucky and the fact that was on the road and Georgia Tech when they were number two in the country."

This will mark the 166th meeting between Auburn and Georgia on the hardwood with Auburn holding a slim 83-82 advantage. The Tigers have won four of the last six over the Bulldogs and hold a 19-10 advantage in Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

Despite his team's recent hot hand against the Bulldogs, Ellis says that he knows that a veteran Georgia squad will make things very tough on his team, even at home.

"They have four seniors on their team who are four year players that have been playing for a long time," Ellis says. "That includes Damien Wilkins who played at North Carolina State as a freshman. Rashad Wright has been a point guard starter for four years and he will end up being Georgia's career assist leader. Chris Daniels is always been a great rebounder and shot blocker for four years. Jonas Hayes, one of the twins form the famous Hayes family, has given them great play. They make them a strong team--veteran starting line-up."

Those four seniors are the keys to Georgia's attack and all four are averaging scoring in double figures.

Wright leads the Bulldogs with 14.1 points per game while also grabbing 3.3 rebounds and dishing out 3.2 assists. Wilkins has also been hot scoring 13.5 points per game and pulling down 6.1 rebounds per contest.

Hayes is hitting for 12.3 points per game and grabbing 5.2 rebounds and Daniels is averaging 10.1 points and 9.3 rebounds.

As a team the Bulldogs are scoring 68.5 points and are giving up 66.7 per game. They are shooting 42.4 percent from the floor and 31.2 percent from three-point land. On the boards Georgia is outrebounding its opponents by four per game.

For the Tigers things look very different statistically in their wins versus their losses in conference play. In Auburn's two conference wins they are scoring 75 points per game, shooting 44.3 percent from the floor, 29.8 percent from three-point range and outrebounding opponents by 16. Compare that with scoring 53.7 points per game, shooting 35.3 percent from the floor, 27.5 percent from three and being outrebounded by 0.7 boards in six SEC losses.

One major reasons for the offensive problems has been the Tigers' inability to solve opponents zone defenses and Ellis says because of that his team has been facing more of them lately.

"We have been seeing a lot of it," Ellis says. "We really have and there is no hiding the fact that we haven't handled it very well. That probably has been the thing that has bothered us as far as a team throughout the year."

One move Ellis made at Arkansas was to bring true freshman Dwayne Curtis into the starting lineup, which the coach will likely do again, against the Bulldogs. That move allows Curtis, who is a physical scoring threat inside, to take over offensively in the low post and frees up experienced Marco Killingsworth to play more in the high post, a key position for breaking down a zone defense.

And Ellis says that he was very excited by Curtis' play in his first start as a Tiger. "He is really going to be a fine player," the coach notes. "He has still got a long way to go, but what he has done recently has been impressive. He has played 20 minutes with 11 points and six rebounds."

Ellis explains that another problem he is seeing with his team is trying to win the mental part of the game after the Tigers sluggish start to conference play.

"When you are 2-6 your mental psyche is challenged," Ellis says. "You are not as confident. You do not feel as good and you also have some guys that have been to the NCAA Tournament that really want to get there and they may start pressing and I think we have got some guys that perhaps are pressing a little bit. So, you have got a lot of those things that the mental psyche has got to overcome, but there is no hiding the fact that we are going to have to have one heck of a second half of this race."

With the Tigers now 2-6 in conference play there is little hope of an NCAA berth. However, a strong comeback and solid finish in SEC play could take away some of the sting from a season with solid hopes heading south early.

The Tigers and Bulldogs will tip it off at 3 p.m. at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum and the game will not be televised. At halftime Auburn will honor former head coach Sonny Smith for his service to the Tigers and his continuing commitment to the game of basketball.

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