Big Bass, Big Baby, Big Challenge For Tigers

Jeff Lebo and the Tigers will have some heavy lifting to do on Wednesday night in Baton Rouge.

Auburn, Ala.--For Coach John Brady and LSU, Wednesday night's game in Baton Rouge is a contest the home team can't afford to let slip away when the Auburn Tigers visit the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

Making the halfway turn through the SEC race with a 5-3 record, the Bayou Bengals are in contention for an NCAA Basketball Tournament bid, but for that to happen they need to take care of business against teams they are heavily favored to beat.

Auburn definitely falls into that category despite Coach Jeff Lebo's Tigers showing signs of improvement in the past four games with victories over Tennessee and Mississippi State plus a near miss in that stretch against Alabama.

With the recent victories, the 2-6 Auburn team no longer has the worst record in SEC games. Georgia, at 1-8, holds that distinction, however, Auburn is at the bottom of the SEC West, one win behind Ole Miss and Arkansas.

Auburn is also at the bottom of the division when it comes to the size of its players, which could be a major problem on Wednesday night against a pair of powerful power forwards for Brady's team, a duo Lebo predicts will be in the NBA someday.

LSU forward Brandon Bass

Brandon Bass, a 6-9, 252-pound sophomore, will be a load for Auburn's undersized frontline to handle. Freshman Glen Davis, who is known as "Big Baby," is an even larger load. He checks in at 6-9, 310 pounds. Bass averages 17.2 points and 8.5 rebounds per game for the 12-7 Bayou Bengals. Davis averages 13.2 points and 9.1 rebounds.

Brady goes with guards at the other three starting spots and each averages in double figures for points scored per game. Antonio Hudson, a player who Auburn heavily recruited when he was in high school, is averaging 13.3 points and 3.3 rebounds. The 6-6, 214-pounder is a senior from Grambling, La.

The two other guards are small by SEC standards at 5-11. Darrel Mitchell, a junior, is averaging 13.4 points and 2.9 assists. Tack Minor, a sophomore, is averaging 10.6 points and an SEC-leading 5.4 assists.

Lebo says he is going to count on his widebody reserve forward, Kyle Derozan, to help against the imposing LSU front line. Derozan, a tight end on the football team, checks in at 6-4, 252. He is a Louisiana native who was a good basketball player at Point Coupee Central High in Morganza.

Glen "Big Baby" Davis has been a force inside as a freshman.

"This is home for him," Lebo says. "He is going back home to Baton Rouge. There will be some bellies banging if he gets in there, I'll tell you that," Lebo says. "LSU's big guys are high-skilled guys so it will be a challenge for Kyle."

Auburn will try to use the momentum of its 90-76 victory over Mississippi State on Saturday to pick up its first road SEC victory of the season after three losses.

If freshman guard Frank Tolbert shoots like he did vs. Mississippi State, Auburn's chances for the upset will be enhanced. Tolbert's 29 points were a collegiate career high.

Lebo says he didn't see such an offensive explosion coming from the 6-3, 206 freshman, but he did see improvement. "He is getting better," the coach says. "I think he is getting more confident and comfortable on the floor. We do a lot of different things and I think he understands them pretty well now.

"Frank has had some success in the last two or three games," Lebo adds. "It may not look like that on the stat sheet in the games before the Mississippi State game, but on film we saw him making some strides. Hopefully, he will be able to handle this success and be consistent."

Tolbert is averaging 7.0 points and 2.3 rebounds per game. Toney Douglas, another freshman guard, leads the Tigers at 17.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per contest.

Toney Douglas is a candidate for Freshman All-SEC honors.

Senior Quinnel Brown (13.0 ppg, 6.1 rebounds), senior Ian Young (14.4 ppg, 4.6 assists, 4.2 rebounds) and senior Nathan Watson (11 ppg, 5.9 rebounds) are also scheduled to start for Auburn.

LSU will bring a seven-game homecourt winning streak into Wednesday night's contest. Brady's team has won six of its last eight games, but lost its last outing 77-55 at Tennessee, a game the coach says he really wanted to win to get to 6-2 in conference play.

Auburn is 0-3 in conference road games and 2-3 overall on opponents' homecourts.

"You would like to get one on the road," Lebo says. "You just have to be so good on the road. We have struggled at times on the road. We have let some things get out of control a couple times early on the road. We have not shot the ball extremely well in the SEC on the road. We would like to break through it at some point.

"We have four of our next five games on the road. We knew this would be the toughest stretch of our season. We just have to play better and have to make some shots on the road. We have got to do it early to keep our confidence level high."

Auburn Notes: Commenting that basketball can be a "funny game," Jeff Lebo says that his team actually got more good shots in its 90-53 loss at Mississippi State than it did in its 90-76 victory over the same team last Saturday in Auburn. The Tigers hit just 26.5 percent of those "good looks" in Starkville, but made 60 percent in the rematch...The Auburn coach says that freshman Toney Douglas will likely swing between the two guard spot and the point guard spot down the stretch. With point guard Ian Young not full speed with an ankle problem last game, Douglas saw his most extensive action at point guard vs. Mississippi State. Lebo says how much point Douglas plays will likely depend on how the matchups look vs. each opponent...Lebo says that he believes that Douglas will be a "combo guard" next season because he can play both shooting guard and point guard...Frank Tolbert became the second Tiger this season to be named SEC Player of the Week. Young won the award on Nov. 22nd after Auburn won at Temple to open the regular season...Although AU has played twice against division opponents Ole Miss and Mississippi State, Auburn is facing LSU for the first time this season. The rematch is Feb. 26th at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

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