Tigers Looking For SEC Tournament Upset Vs. Vandy

Atlanta, Ga.--No team going into the 2005 SEC Men's Basketball Tournament is a bigger underdog than Auburn as the Tigers prepare for a Thursday night test against the Vanderbilt Commodores, a team that embarrassed the Tigers on their homecourt on February 16th.

Tipoff is scheduled for 8:45 p.m. CST from the Georgia Dome where Coach Jeff Lebo's 13-16 Tigers take on an 18-12 Vandy team that is in a must win situation to have a shot at an NCAA Tournament bid.

Auburn's only shot for postseason play is to win four straight games and receive the conference's automatic bid to the big dance, a highly unlikely scenario for a team short on talent, depth and height that has a 4-12 SEC record. The Commodores are 8-8 in the league.

"We are going up there with the mindset that we are, obviously, going to have to take one game at a time, but we are going to put all of our focus into that game," says Lebo, whose team lost 67-43 in the regular season matchup vs. he Commodores.

Jeff Lebo is finishing his first season as head coach of the Tigers.

"We have approached every game like that--that every game is like our season," Lebo adds. "We know what kind of task that we have to get to any postseason. It would be very, very difficult. We would almost have to win it all to go. If we do that we will have a big party here so our focus will be Vanderbilt and hopefully we will play better.

"Our backcourt was, I think, 1-20 from the field (in the first game vs. Vandy). If they do that again we will have no chance, but hopefully Toney (freshman Toney Douglas) and Ian (senior Ian Young) will shoot the ball better.

The winner of Thursday's game will play at 8:45 p.m. CST on Friday vs. LSU, which received a first round bye along with Alabama, Florida and Kentucky, the regular season league champ. The tournament opens at noon CST on Thursday with Ole Miss facing South Carolina followed by Georgia vs. Mississippi State.

In the first game of the evening session, Tennessee will take on Arkansas with a 6:30 p.m. CST tipoff prior to Auburn taking the court.

The Tigers played one of their better games of the season in the regular season finale, knocking off visiting Arkansas 77-64 last Saturday on Senior Day. Vanderbilt lost at LSU in its last game.

The Commodores should cause a major matchup problem with four starters 6-6 or taller and 7-2 and 6-7 key substitutes while Lebo is expected to go with his lineup that features four guards and Quinnel Brown, who is the tallest starter at a shade under six-foot-five, playing the role of center.

Brown has had an impressive senior season playing out of position and is averaging 13.1 points and 6.2 rebounds while playing good defense. Douglas, a third team All-SEC pick, is the top scorer for the Tigers at 16.8 points per game to go with 5.2 rebounds and 1.9 assists.

Quinnel Brown scored 11 points in the first game vs. Vanderbilt. The Tigers led 26-21 at the half, but lost by 24 as they hit just 3-26 field goals in the second half and committed a total of 21 turnovers.

Douglas was also named to the Coaches Freshman All-SEC team. He is second nationally in scoring average for freshmen and is fifth overall in the conference.

Senior Nathan Watson is averaging 11.3 points and 6.0 rebounds. Young is scoring 13.3 points per contest with 4.1 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game. Freshman Frank Tolbert is expected to start and averages 6.9 points and 2.9 rebounds.

Off he bench, freshman Daniel Hayles is the top option. He is averaging 6.1 points and 3.1 rebounds. Football player Kyle Derozan is averaging 1.5 points and 0.8 rebounds in limited playing time as a 6-4, 252-pound center.

Mario Moore shoots for Vanderbilt. He scored 30 points vs. LSU.

Vandy is led by 5-11 junior guard Mario Moore, who is averaging 13.2 points and 3.8 assists per game. Corey Smith, a 6-6, 242 senior, scored 19 points vs. Auburn in the first meeting. He is averaging 12 points and 4.4 rebounds.

Shan Foster, a 6-6, 198 freshman forward, averages 8.3 points and 3.1 rebounds and is a strong three-point shooter.

Julian Terrell, a 6-9, 249 junior forward, is the top rebounder with 4.6 per game to go with 6.4 points.

Off the bench the Commodores can give AU a major matchup problem when they play 7-2, 261 senior Dawid Przbyszewski, who averages 7.0 points and 3.6 rebounds. Freshman forward DeMarre Carroll, 6-7, 204 from John Carroll High in Birmingham, averages 3.8 points and 3.6 rebounds.

"They are coming off a loss at LSU, but they are a team that has recently been playing very well," Lebo says. "When you talk about Vanderbilt you talk about the ability to shoot the three and they do it well.

"They are going inside a little bit more recently than they have in the past--to Cory Smith inside, who is a load in there," Lebo adds. "They are a team that handled us in the second half. We played very well in the first half, but in the second half the turnovers and fast break points off of turnovers really hurt us."

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