"I am going home, take a painkiller and go to sleep," the 6-10 sophomore center said Saturday night. Sounds like a good plan considering what happened on his most unusual day as an Auburn basketball player.
The Tigers have lived and died with their defense during the 2001-2002 season. Without Kyle Davis in the middle to deflect and disrupt shots, the Tiger D had not been the same since losing the 6-10 sophomore to an elbow injury that required surgery on Monday. His absence probably had a lot to do with AU's 0-2 start in SEC play. His presence, even if just for 16 minutes of action, had a lot to do with Auburn defeating nationally-ranked Alabama 59-56.
Davis was expected to miss approximately a month of the season with the best-case scenario being a 2 1/2-week layoff. That is why his return on Saturday for Auburn's 59-56 victory was such an emotional lift to his teammates and coaches.
Coach Cliff Ellis said his team had a strong defensive effort, as good as any all season, and he credits Davis with being a major part of that performance as he stunned everyone, including the coach, to play 16 key minutes and perform wonderfully even though he was in pain and had not practiced for 10 days.
"Every block I made, every rebound I grabbed, I could feel the pain shooting all the way up my arm," Davis said. "I was hurting." Dr. Jim Andrews and Dr. Larry Lemak of HealthSouth removed bone spurs and drained blood from the injured elbow five days earlier.
The sophomore told Ellis early in the day he wanted to try to play if at all possible. After checking with the doctors and being told that there would be no harm in trying if the center could stand the pain, Ellis said he told Davis to warmup next door to Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum at the auxiliary gym.
After going to the training room in pregame for some therapy, Davis decided the pain was bearable so it was time to try to play. A day earlier he had tried to shoot a basketball and the elbow was causing him so much trouble that he couldn't even hit the rim. After seeing that, Ellis said he had no expectations for Davis playing on Saturday.
"I told my coach that I should at least go out there and try it out," Davis says. "I am glad I did. It was killing me the whole week just watching."
Marquis Daniels led the Tigers in scoring with 15 points.
Tiger Ticket Extra: After playing tremendous basketball in Spain last August, Lincoln Glass has been disappointing much of the season after returning from an academic suspension in December. Against Alabama, he had one of his most productive efforts of the season with seven points, two rebounds and two assists in 21 minutes of action in six previous games. "Lincoln Glass hit a couple of big shots and made some plays," Ellis says...The Auburn coach said AU's 11-rebound advantage really helped the Tigers. "The fact that we were able to win the boards (49-38) was a big factor." Tide forward Erwin Dudley, who led Bama with nine rebounds, agree. "You have to make rebounds if you want to win in this league," Dudley said...Throughout the season, Derrick Bird has matched up against the opposition's offensive star and played tough defense. He held Bama standout Rod Grizzard to 3-11 shooting and just seven points despite giving up four inches to the 6-8 Tide forward. "Derrick Bird did a great job on Grizzard," Ellis said. "Alabama is an excellent basketball team and they are going to be back. We were fortunate, but I will say this, we played with a lot of heart and I am extremely proud of this basketball team."
Tide coach Mark Gottfried said, "We put ourselves in a position to win, but we didn't win and that is what is hard." Gottfried added, "I thought there late in the game our guys showed tremendous character and gave our team a three-point lead. At that point we have got find a way to get the job done. We didn't do it and you have to give Auburn credit."...Alabama hit just 30 percent of its field goals for the game and only 25 percent in the second half. "You have to give Auburn credit," Gottfried said. "They guarded us well."...Auburn's coach agreed. "We played great defense," Ellis said...Ellis and his Tigers have now won six of their last eight games vs. the Tide. The Tigers have won six straight vs. Bama at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum...Ellis is 7-2 all-time vs. Gottfried--1-0 vs. Murray State and 6-2 vs. Bama...The last four Tigers vs. Tide games have been close ones with a combined margin of victory of 10 points.