AU Looks To Even Series In Rematch Vs. Rebels

Auburn, Ala.--Ole Miss will try to snap a four-game losing streak and sweep its divisional series vs. Auburn when the Tigers visit the "Tad" Smith Coliseum for a 7 p.m. tipoff on Wednesday night.

The Rebels have slipped to 2-6 in the SEC basketball race after losses to Kentucky, Alabama, LSU and Vanderbilt. Ole Miss is 11-10 overall.

Auburn, 10-9 overall and 1-5 in the league, comes into the contest following its first SEC victory, a 62-59 homecourt decision over Tennessee on Saturday.

AU coach Jeff Lebo says he believes the victory has helped energize his first Auburn team, but notes that the Tigers will have their hands full on Wednesday night.

"It is very difficult to go play in Oxford," Lebo says. "I don't think when I was an assistant at South Carolina or Vanderbilt we won there at all so they are a team that plays extremely well at home."

Auburn leads its all-time series vs. Ole Miss by a 66-43 margin, but the Rebels lead 31-21 in games played in Oxford and are 25-13 vs. Auburn in games at the 8,700-seat "Tad" Smith Coliseum.

"They should have beat Kentucky this year at home," Lebo contends. "They outplayed them for about 39 minutes of that game. It is always a tough, difficult place to play. Defensively, they seem to turn it up a notch at home. I know they are hungry to get back home and get a W, too."

The Rebels are led by a pair of forwards, 6-6, 182 junior Londrick Nolen and 6-7, 245 Tommy Eddie, a senior. Nolen averages 12.3 points and 5.0 rebounds per game while Eddie averages 11.8 points and 4.4 rebounds.

In the first meeting, a 79-72 victory by the Rebels on Jan. 15th, Marvin Moore had his career-best game with 23 points and 12 rebounds. The 6-6, 220-pound senior from Marion, Ala., via Southern Union Community College, is averaging just 4.6 points and 2.8 rebounds per game so he is probably glad to see the Tigers coming to the "Tad Pad."

"He really, to me, is a harder matchup than a lot of bigger guys because he has got quickness and is more athletic than anybody we have," Lebo says of Moore. "He is really a small post-up player. He really dominated us inside."

Another starter, senior Kendrick Fox, is a 6-7, 215 forward who is averaging 7.3 points and 2.6 rebounds.

Coach Rod Barnes is expected to start 6-0, 188 senior Justin Johnson at guard along with 5-9, 170 Cavadas Nunnery. Johnson is averaging 5.3 points and 1.4 rebounds. Nunnery averages 3.7 points and 3.0 assists.

Off the bench, 6-1, 190 sophomore guard Todd Abernethy is averaging 8.4 points and 3.1 rebounds.

"I thought Ole Miss played very well here, especially offensively in the second half," Lebo says. "They shot a high percentage. I didn't think offensively, against them, we were particularly sharp, but you have to give them credit."

Lebo is expected to go with the same starting lineup he used on Saturday when the Tigers took a 62-59 homecourt victory over Tennessee. That group includes forward Quinnel Brown along with guards Ian Young, Frank Tolbert, Toney Douglas and Nathan Watson.

Daniel Hayles scored 10 points and played good defense vs. Tennessee on Saturday.

Daniel Hayles, a part-time starter, is expected to come off the bench again. Lebo notes that the 6-4 freshman provided a spark in that role vs. the Volunteers on Saturday.

The Auburn coach notes that this has been a challenging season for his freshmen like Hayles because the AU staff is asking a lot of the group. The Tigers not only change what they are doing from game to game, they often switch defensive strategies multiple times during a single game.

"Game to game, the adjustments we have had to make because we are small, have been difficult at times," Lebo notes. "Early in the season we could play a particular style and it was pretty standard almost every single play. Now that we have got into league play we have had to make those adjustments. I think they understand they are going to have to think. From game to game we are going to make changes that they are comfortable with."

Despite his recent scoring slump, freshman Douglas still leads the Tigers in scoring at 17.8 points per game. Young is averaging 15.3, Brown 13.2 and Watson is scoring 10.9 points per game to go with 5.9 rebounds, second only to Brown's 6.3 per contest.

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