Opening Night A Success For Lebo's Tigers

After a slow start, Auburn pulled away for a victory in the exhibition opener for Coach Jeff Lebo's Tigers.

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn basketball team rallied from a 48-40 second-half deficit to beat Lee University 98-78 behind senior guards Ian Young and Nathan Watson in its exhibition opener to the 2004-2005 season.

NAIA Lee University of Cleveland, Tenn., led 40-35 at the half and built the lead to eight, but Young and Watson scored 24 of Auburn's 27 points during an eight minute stretch to start the second half to take a 67-59 lead, which the Tigers never surrendered.

"I was proud of our team," said Auburn head coach Jeff Lebo. "They didn't panic when we got down. I told our team at half that Florida, with three all-conference players first team in the SEC, was up four against Eckerd. These exhibition games are big for Lee. They brought a lot of people and were fired up and their kids were excited to play.

"We did some good things out there," he added. "I thought in the second half Ian Young showed some leadership. Nathan Watson made a couple of energy plays that got us going defensively. I think with the way we play, we have to be in incredible shape. We're out pressuring the ball. We're spread out all over the place. We don't have a lot of depth, but we're in pretty good shape to start the season."

Quinnel Brown goes to the basket for two points in the first half.

Young finished with a game-high 28 points to go along with 10 assists and five rebounds. Watson, who scored Auburn's first 13 points of the second half, finished with 20 points, nine boards and three assists.

Quinnel Brown, Daniel Hayles and Troy Gaines started the game with Young and Watson, but watched most of the second half from the sidelines as Frank Tolbert, Toney Douglas and Brett Howell got some experience.

"In the second half we went even smaller than what we really are," Lebo said. "I know that's kind of odd for me to say, but that's what did. We played Frank Tolbert (6-3) at the power forward and Nathan Watson (6-3) at the center. That was actually more effective than Hayles and Q (Quinnel Brown) in the second half."

Young attributed the Tigers' second-half run to the team's new workout routine of first-year coach Lebo. "Our conditioning kicked in," he said. "We were well conditioned. They kind of played the kind of ball that we're going to have to play against bigger players. They spread us out and put 5-10, 5-11 guys around the perimeter and made it hard for us to guard. The conditioning that we do in practice caught up and they wore down and we continued to go."

After nearly a month of preseason practice, Young said it was nice play a game in front of fans and see how some of the younger players would respond.

"We have a lot of new guys and us playing under Coach (Lebo) for the first time, we wanted to see what it's like under the lights," Young said. "A lot of people can do it in practice and scrimmage games, but coming out here and having an exhibition, people see what they can do in game situations."

Auburn will not have any more preseason games and will start the regular season at Temple at 6 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 19. The next home game for the Tigers is against Furman at 7 p.m. Nov. 22.

The Flames, who brought a 4-0 record into the game, were led by 6-2, 235 forward Kwbana Beckles, who scored 19 points and added 14 rebounds. "Kwbana Beckels is a Division I caliber player," said Lee coach Rick Hughes. "He had a complete game. I didn't say anything special to him. He just felt like he had to step his game up."

Auburn shot just 35.9 percent in the first half, but after halftime hit 19-32 field goals to finish the game at 46.5 percent to 35.9 percent for the visitors.

Auburn took a 50-44 edge in rebounds and had 11 turnovers, four fewer than the Flames.

Former Parade All-American guard Toney Douglas scored 17 points in 22 minutes of action as a reserve. Fellow freshman guard Frank Tolbert scored 13 points and added six rebounds in 22 minutes off the bench.

Freshman Hayles played 16 minutes and scored two points and added five rebounds. Auburn's other freshman, 6-11 Ryan Daniel, didn't score in four minutes of playing time.

After missing five of their first seven free throw attempts, the Tigers rallied to hit 18-26 in the game compared to 9-10 for the visitors. Young was 10-11 at the free throw line.

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