Tigers Take On Gators Looking For First SEC Win

Auburn, Ala.–-Coach Jeff Lebo's Auburn Tigers open the home conference schedule Wednesday night when they face the talented Florida Gators at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

With both teams looking for their 10th win of the season the game should be a battle between Auburn's guards and Florida's ever-improving interior play.

Led by big man David Lee, the Gators have become one of the most physical teams in the SEC in 2005. Averaging 12.9 points and 6.6 rebounds a game, the 6-8, 249 senior has posted 12 double-doubles in his career and has scored in double figures in all but two games this season. Lebo says that containing Lee's play inside and keeping him out of the offense is the key for Auburn this week against the Gators.

"Florida, offensively, is as talented as any team we've faced," Lebo says. "Even without their injury to Matt Walsh, their leading scorer, they still have enough artillery to put the ball in the basket. They're shooting the ball at a very high percentage from the two, I think over 52 or 53 percent, which is phenomenal. They can also shoot the ball from the perimeter. They played awfully well in their last game at home against Arkansas.

"David Lee, in their last game, was absolutely terrific," Lebo adds. "Their guards have to get the ball to him a little bit more. They have to get him more touches now with Walsh out. What makes him more effective is his ability to score with his left or right hand, but also his ability to pass it. He's one of the best passing big guys in the country."

David Lee

Along with Lee on the interior are freshmen Corey Brewer and Al Horford. The duo averages 13.7 points and 7.7 rebounds combined with Horford a force inside at 6-8, 225. The son of former NBA player Tito Horford, the native of the Dominican Republic is making 66 percent of his field goals this season.

While they have the bodies to bang inside, on the perimeter is where the Gators can take over a game if an opponent isn't careful. Leading that charge is sophomore Anthony Roberson. The 6-1 Roberson averages 15.5 points on the season and lit up the Tigers last season for 21 points.

Along with Roberson in the starting lineup is sophomore Lee Humphrey (6-2, 180). He averages 5.9 points on the year. Also seeing considerable time in the backcourt is Taurean Green. The son of former NBA player Sidney Green, the 6-0 freshman averages 5.0 points per game to go along with a team-high 3.5 assists.

While Florida comes in with a great deal of confidence after beating Arkansas at home on Saturday, Auburn limps in after being bombed 90-53 at Mississippi State last Wednesday. While the game didn't go as he had wished, Lebo says that the effort he got out of his team was good and it was just a night when the shots didn't fall for his club.

"We've got young kids and guys that aren't real experienced," Lebo says. "They've practiced hard this week. Who knows how they'll respond on Wednesday? We've talked about putting thie game behind us and the way we have to focus this year is that every game is our season. We've got to put that one behind us and focus on the future and try to get the next one and shore up some areas.

"Offensively, when we watched the film against Mississippi State, the shots were there--we just didn't put them in the basket. When they're not there we all know we're going to have a hard time. They got momentum and it just snowballed. We have to do a better job with our kids. It was the first time that we looked a little shocked and stunned. They took our will a little bit. They responded like freshmen on the road and that's all a part of growing up."

One freshman that hasn't been affected by the SEC or anything this season is guard Toney Douglas. The league's leading scorer at 18.8 points per game, Douglas is the only freshman in the Top 50 in the NCAA in scoring to this point and has been tremendous all year for the Tigers. To go along with his scoring totals he's also second on the team in rebounding at 5.6 per contest. Lebo says he knew they would have to count heavily on Douglas' play this season because of the lack of depth on the team.

"We're not playing very many people and Toney is a kid that will put the ball in the basket," Lebo says. "We're playing guys way too many minutes. You look at other team's minutes, look at Florida for example, and their leading guy is playing about 26 minutes a game. We may have close to four playing over 34 or 35 minutes a game. We do get fatigued because we're playing guys too many minutes.

"Toney, along with the rest of the guys, is playing too many minutes. It's probably too many minutes for a freshman. We don't have the luxury of, for instance when Toney makes a mistake, to sit him down for long periods of time. Coach Eddie Fogler's quote was ‘the quickest way to a kid's head is through his rear end,' but we don't have that luxury."

Other freshmen who will continue to see considerable time for the Tigers are starting forward Daniel Hayles (6-5, 215) and reserve guard Frank Tolbert (6-3, 210). Hayles is averaging 8.1 points and 3.9 rebounds this season and has averaged 10.7 points in his last three games. Tolbert is scoring 6.6 points and pulling down 2.7 rebounds per contest.

Rounding out the starting lineup for the Tigers in addition to Tolbert and Hayles are seniors Ian Young (6-3, 200), Quinnel Brown (6-6, 210) and Nathan Watson (6-3, 200). Young is second on the team in scoring at 16.2 points and leads the team with 4.5 assists per game. Brown leads the team in rebounding, pulling down 6.4 boards per contest, and chips in with 13.1 points. Watson is scoring 10.6 points and grabbing 5.6 rebounds per game.

Auburn comes into the game with a record of 9-5 overall, 0-1 in SEC play. The Gators are 9-3, 1-0 in league play. Auburn leads the all-time series over Florida 86-63, but Coach Billy Donovan's club has won five straight in the series. The game can be seen on the Sunshine Network only on a tape delayed broadcast.

"We'll be playing a team on Wednesday that is very difficult to play against because of their ability to shoot the three," Donovan says.

""Not only do they shoot the three, they have guys on the perimeter that have the ability to put the ball on the floor and drive it to the basket. They've got a combination of both things. If you get out there and pressure them and take away the three-point line, they've got the explosiveness and athletic ability to put it on the floor and get by you.

"To me, they are a very hard team to play against and guard," Donovan adds. "Obviously from a size standpoint, with the loss of Killingsworth and Davis from last year, they aren't as big up front as they were. But in my opinion, from last year to this year, they are much more difficult to guard because we had an idea where Davis and Killingsworth were going to be most of the time. These guys open it up and they are going to take a lot of threes and let it go. Any time you play a team like that on the road, in the gym where they practice, the ball is in favor of Auburn."


Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories