Tall Task Awaiting Lebo's Tigers

Columbia, S.C.--Coach Jeff Lebo and the Auburn Tigers have a tall task at hand Saturday at 6:30 p.m. CST when they take on the South Carolina Gamecocks at the Colonial Center where the home team is 11-1 this season.

Auburn has been outscored by an average of 27.2 points in its four SEC road games this season and Saturday's latest challenge doesn't look any easier. Auburn will face an opponent with seven players listed as 6-7 or taller. Auburn has one player--a reserve--taller than 6-6.

"South Carolina poses a lot of problems for a lot of people, especially at home," Lebo says. "Defensively they do so many things. They have athleticism to cover the court. We will have to take care of the basketball to get shots against them on the road. Obviously we have to try to hold our own on the glass."

The Tigers, who have given up 90 or more points in three of their four SEC road losses, are going through what Lebo says is the toughest portion of the schedule. Auburn is 11-11 overall and 2-7 in the SEC.

"It is hard," Lebo says of the schedule. "This stretch in February in general is going to be a tough stretch where we have four out of five on the road. It is hard when you go on the road in any league. It is all relative with our team. It seems that our deficiencies are magnified five-fold when we play on the road versus at home."

The Gamecocks (13-7 overall, 5-4 SEC) are led by 6-7 senior lefty Carlos Powell, who is averaging 15.3 points and 6.4 rebounds.

Coach Dave Odom

Also expected to start for Coach Dave Odom, who is 70-49 in four seasons in Columbia after spending 12 years at Wake Forest, are 6-7 Tarence Kinsey (9.8 ppg, 3.7 rpg), 6-9 Renaldo Balkman (6.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg), 6-10 John Chappell (1.2 ppg, 1.5 rpg) and 6-0 guard Tre Kelly (10.1 ppg, 3.3 assists per game).

Six-foot-two shooting guard Josh Gonner, 6-9 Brandon Wallace and 6-8 Antoine Tisby also see significant playing time for Odom.

For Auburn, freshman guard Frank Tolbert is expected to get the starting nod over Daniel Hayles for the sixth straight game. Tolbert, who scored a career high 29 points in Auburn's 90-76 home win over Mississippi State, followed that game with no points in 23 minutes in the Tigers' 90-69 loss at LSU on Wednesday.

Carlos Powell is one of four South Carolina starters who is 6-7 or taller.

Joining Tolbert in the Auburn starting five are Quinnel Brown, Nathan Watson, Toney Douglas and Ian Young. Douglas, at 17.8 points per game, leads the Tigers in scoring. Young is averaging 14.3 points, Brown 13.1 points and a team-high 6.0 rebounds, Watson 11.4 points and Tolbert 6.6 points.

The trip to Columbia will be a homecoming for a pair of Auburn coaches. Lebo spent five years as an assistant under Eddie Fogler at South Carolina from 1993 to 1998. Associate head coach John Cooper spent six years at USC from 1995 to 2001.

"It is exciting from the standpoint that I will get a chance to see a lot of friends that I haven't seen in a while," Lebo says. "I spent five good years there and know a lot of people. It will be exciting to go back to Columbia. I haven't seen their new arena, which I hear is first class."

Auburn has won six of the last seven and 12 of the last 15 in the series.


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