Tigers To Face Tough Task In Atlanta

If the Auburn basketball team has any plans of dancing this March they will have to win the SEC Tournament that begins on Thursday.

Auburn, Ala.--For the Auburn basketball Tigers it all comes down to this. If they are going to make it to the big dance they will have to make an improbable run and win the SEC tournament.

Also the Tigers, who are 14-13 overall and 5-11 in SEC play, will likely have to win at least their first round game to get serious consideration for an invitation to the NIT.

That task, which will be very tough, begins on Thursday at noon CST when Auburn, which is the SEC West fourth seed, will face off with the Georgia Bulldogs, who are the SEC East fifth seed.

Georgia is 15-12 overall this season and 7-9 in SEC play with one of those losses being a 57-54 defeat at the hands of the Tigers back in February.

In that contest Rashad Wright hit the rim on an open 20-foot three-pointer as time expired that would have tied the game for the Bulldogs. Wright got his chance after the Tigers hit two pairs of free throws in the final 32 seconds and Lewis Monroe missed a layup off of a Georgia turnover with five seconds remaining that would have sealed the victory.

Thursday's game will mark the first time the Tigers and Bulldogs have met in the SEC Tournament in 16 years. The last meeting was a 65-60 Georgia victory in Baton Rouge in 1988. In SEC Tournament history the two teams have met five times with Auburn holding a 3-2 advantage.

The Tigers and Bulldogs also hold an SEC tournament record. In 1979 it took four overtimes for Auburn to defeat Georgia 95-91 and that game is still the longest game in tournament history.

If the Tigers plan on getting the much needed win on Thursday, Ian Young and Brandon Robinson will likely have to continue the run of strong play the duo has shown recently.

Ian Young will be a big key to the Tigers hopes of making a run in the SEC tournament.

In the Tigers' last eight games, Young has scored in double figures and is averaging 15.5 points. The junior guard has also hit 16 of the 32 three-pointers he has shot in his last four contests.

Robinson has scored three consecutive double-doubles for the Tigers that included a career-high 29 points to go along with 10 rebounds versus LSU this weekend. The junior forward also scored 24 points grabbed 11 rebounds at Mississippi State and he racked up 19 points and 12 boards at Tennessee.

If the Tigers are going to get the win, one big key will be holding on to the basketball, which is something that Auburn has been doing a much better job of recently. In their last five games the Tigers are averaging 13.3 turnovers, which is three less per game than the 16.6 turnovers they committed over the first 21 games of the season.

Brandon Robinson has been on fire lately and if he can keep it up Auburn could pull out some wins this weekend.

Despite taking a tight win at home earlier this season it appears that Auburn and Georgia are on different tracks heading into the game. Georgia has won four of its last six contests, including a season ending 71-61 victory over Vanderbilt on Saturday.

However, Auburn has only two wins in its last six contests and was on a four-game losing streak, its longest of the season, before defeating LSU 78-66 on Saturday. Still, despite the record Auburn appears to be playing its best basketball of the SEC season and has been competitive in all of its games, which have included road trips third-ranked Mississippi State and a home date with Kentucky that Auburn had a chance to win late in the game.

With a victory on Thursday things will only get tougher as Auburn would have to face that eighth-ranked Kentucky team again on Friday and despite Auburn giving the Wildcats a tough game at home in February, UK always has a ton of fan support in Atlanta and the Wildcats are playing well down the stretch. Also the Wildcats know how to win in the SEC Tournament and leads the league with 24 titles, which is a lot more than second place Alabama, which has won six.

Also if the Tigers can come away victorious on Thursday, then Friday will be the fifth time in 10years that the Tigers have faced the Wildcats in the SEC tournament, which would make Kentucky Cliff Ellis' most common opponent in his 10tournament appearances. However, that is not a good thing since AU is 0-4 against the Wildcats in its previous meetings.

Thursday's game will be televised by JP sports and should be available on all of the JP affiliates. However, Auburn may wish that was not the case. The Tigers are an agonizing 3-11 in televised games this season and 0-10 in SEC play when its games are on the tube. Auburn's three wins on television this season came against Western Kentucky, Colorado State and Air Force.


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