As will be the case for most of the season, the Tigers, who are 69-21 all-time in home openers, will be at a height disadvantage on the inside against the visiting Paladins. Furman, which returns four starters from a 17-12 team that went 8-8 in the Southern Conference last season, will line up 6-8 senior center Moussa Dagne, 6-8 sophomore forward Quan Powell, who is from nearby Columbus, Ga., and 6-7 senior forward Nicolas Sanders on the front line.
At guard, Furman will go with 6-0 junior Tony Carter, who scored 16 points in the Paladins opener, and 6-3 sophomore Robby Bostain. Furman also has a couple of threats off the bench as well in 6-2 sophomore guard Eric Webb, who scored 13 in the season opener, and 6-5 senior forward Ben Earle, who dropped in 16 in the opener.
Along with their size advantage, Lebo says that Paladins can beat you in different ways. "Furman has a very experienced team," he notes. "They played a lot of freshmen last year. The majority of their team is back. They did lose one of their all-conference players.
"They are a good shooting team and a very smart team. They are well coached and very tough. We will have our work cut out for us playing against a good perimeter shooting team. They are different from Temple in that they don't have the size, but they are very good outside stand-still shooters."
Furman showed that shooting touch in its opener. The Paladins shot 49 percent from the floor and were 10-25 from three-point range, which is good for 40 percent.
The game will be the fourth ever meeting between the Tigers and the Paladins with Auburn holding a 2-1 series advantage. The last meeting in the series was in 1971 as the Tigers took a 103-78 win in the first round of the Poinsettia Tournament in Greenville, S.C.
Lebo and Paldins' Head Coach Larry Davis also met four times when Lebo was coaching Southern Conference member Tennessee-Chattanooga. Lebo holds a 2-1 advantage over Davis as the teams split a series in the 2002-2003 season, but Lebo's Mocs came out on top 77-68 in their only meeting in 2003-2004.
The Tigers will likely counter with a four-guard lineup once again with Quinnel Brown being the only inside presence. The 6-6 senior was solid in the opener against the Owls, scoring 11 points and grabbing eight rebounds.
Outside Auburn will use a mix of youth and experience at the guard spots. Senior point guard Ian Young was spectacular in the Tigers' opener, scoring 28 points, including six three-point baskets, pulling down three rebounds and adding six assists. Fellow senior Nathan Watson chipped in nine points and eight rebounds in the win.
Toney Douglas and Nathan Hayles became the first Auburn freshmen to start a game for the Tigers since the 1996-97 season. Douglas showed why he was such a highly heralded recruit out of Jonesboro, Ga., High scoring 15 points and adding nine rebounds for the Tigers in his first start. Hayles scored two points and grabbed two rebounds against the Owls and adds some needed size at 6-5.
Off the bench another freshman and a transfer player will be keys to the Tigers' attack. Frank Tolbert, who was a highly touted recruit out of Red Level High School last season, scored nine points, pulled down two rebounds and dished out four assists in his Auburn debut. Along with Tolbert, Brett Howell, who transferred to the Tigers last season, but had to sit out due to NCAA transfer rules, dropped in two of the Tigers' school record 18 three-pointers in the win over the Owls.
Lebo adds that he was very excited by his team's toughness after getting down 21-5 in the early going against Temple. "Our kids really are an inexperienced group of guys," the coach says. "I was really proud of the way they responded. I didn't know how they would respond to being in that situation. We responded pretty well. We got on a roll there and made some shots. That is the way we are going to have to play."