"Vanderbilt is a balanced team," Ellis said. "They play a lot of players--probably as deep a Vanderbilt team as I have seen in a while. I have a lot of respect for Coach (Kevin) Stallings and several of the players that we have played against last year that did such a great job...they shoot the ball well as all Vanderbilt teams do. We're at Vanderbilt, that's always a tough place to play and we'll have to go in and be ready for a tough, hard-nosed contest."
Leading the way for the Commodores is 6-9, 226 pound sophomore forward Matt Freije. Averaging 16.2 points and 4.7 rebounds per game, the Kansas native has the ability to score both in the paint and on the perimeter and will test the defensive talents of the Tiger that draws the assignment to stop him. Three other Commodore starters score in double figures as Chuck Moore (13.2 points, 3.9 rebounds), Sam Howard (12.9, 2.2) and Brendan Plavich (10.9, 2.4) all present a tough challenge to handle on the perimeter. As a team Vanderbilt attempts 25 three-pointers a game and makes almost 10 a game, good enough for 39 percent. Forty-three percent of all the Vanderbilt shots are three-pointers.
The Tigers again welcome the addition of center Kyle Davis to the lineup. A surprise addition to the playing rotation last Saturday, Davis is the glue that continues to hold this team together. Defensively, there is no question that he brings something to the table that can't be measured simply in wins and losses, it shows in the rankings as well. In SEC play, the Tigers were giving up 76 points per game and opponents were shooting 45.9 percent from the floor and 34 percent from the three point line. With Davis back on Saturday, Auburn gave up just 56 points and held Alabama to 30 percent shooting from the floor and 22.2 percent from behind the arc. His shot-blocking underneath and presence alone allows his teammates to play tighter on the perimeter, which is important when facing a team that is as perimeter oriented as Vanderbilt.
"They are a team that really spreads you out," Ellis noted. "They play different than any team in the league. They spread you out and shoot a lot of threes, but that's Vanderbilt. Typical Vanderbilt."
While he continues to come back from elbow surgery, Davis is still not expected to be in the starting lineup. That role falls to senior Mack McGadney. The 6-7, 250-pounder is averaging 5.1 points and 2.2 rebounds per game. He is joined in the paint by freshman Brandon Robinson. The 6-8 leaper is averaging 10.2 points and leads the team with 6.1 rebounds per game. Backing them up, in addition to Davis, will be freshman Marco Killingsworth and sophomore Abdou Diame. Killingsworth has stepped up his game in SEC play by averaging 10 points and 3.7 rebounds in the three games.
On the perimeter Marquis Daniels continues to excel as the point guard for Ellis' squad. Averaging 15 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game, the junior has been solid in SEC play and a big game is again needed from him to get a win. The mystery continues to be the offensive play of both Derrick Bird and Adam Harrington. Averaging just 19 combined points in SEC play through three games, the duo must come closer to the 30-point mark together from this point forward if Auburn can hope to make a run for the NCAA Tournament.
Free throw shooting continues to be the nemesis for the Tigers as they are making just 55.6 percent from the line in conference play compared to 75.8 percent for their opponents. One thing the Tigers have done better in conference play than they did in pre-conference is rebound the ball. Outrebounding opponents by just over four boards a game, the Tigers have picked up that part of the game and that could be important down the stretch.
Tipoff for Wednesday night's game is scheduled for 7 p.m. and there is no television. The Tigers continue their road trip with a visit to the Maravich Assembly Center Saturday for a 1 p.m. game against the LSU Tigers, winners on Sunday at home against Arkansas.
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