With seeding decided, for Auburn the LSU game is mainly about pride and sending the seniors out with a victory in their final home game. In the past four seasons, the Tigers have 83 victories and McGadney and Barker played roles on the 1999 SEC Championship squad.
Freshman Dwyane Mitchell plays defense vs. South Carolina in Auburn's last home game, which was a 50-46 Auburn victory.
"This is a game in which we salute our seniors," Auburn coach Cliff Ellis says. "Really and truly, they have not gotten a lot of publicity, naturally, because they haven't played. When you look at Charlton Barker, he has come to practice every day battling and putting forward all the energy and effort. This is a time to celebrate his four years of helping our team through the time he has been here, as with Matt Baggett. We also honor Mack McGadney, who has only been off that court because of health. We honor him as a part of senior day. A guy that was All-SEC Tournament in his sophomore year and was part of an SEC Championship team."
Greeting the Tigers on senior day is an LSU team that has won three of its last five games after losing six straight games at one point during the season. The Fighting Tigers are led by outstanding junior Ronald Dupree. The 6-7 swing forward, who is deadly both in the paint and on the perimeter, is averaging 17 points and 8.6 rebounds on the season, numbers good enough to place him fifth and second, respectively, in the SEC individual statistics.
Also a thorn in the side of defenders is point guard Torris Bright. Averaging 12.8 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game, the 6-4 junior is a solid scorer and distributes the ball effectively to a solid offensive club.
Rounding out the starting five for LSU are 6-7, 185 senior forward Jermaine Williams, who averages 6.0 points and 4.5 rebounds per game, 6-8, 250 junior center Brad Bridgewater (6.6 points, 3.9 rebounds) and 6-4, 197 freshman guard Antonio Hudson (9.1 points, 3.1) rebounds.
The strength of the Tigers' game is on the defensive end where they allow opponents to shoot just 41.7 percent from the floor and just 33.2 percent from behind the three-point arc. In the first meeting between the teams it was LSU's defense that was the difference in the game as the Bayou Bengals held Auburn to just 32 percent from the floor and forced 22 turnovers in a 75-58 LSU win.
"LSU has played well lately," Ellis says. "They had a good win against Ole Miss and we certainly understand their team being familiar with several of their players. They are an upper-class team. Ronald Dupree, Torris Bright, Jermaine Williams--we have seen them for a long time. Brad Bridgewater, also, so this is a team that comes in and tries to play physical. Expect a physical basketball game.
"We know that Dupree is one of the unsung players and maybe unheralded players in our league. He certainly has been a power throughout his time. Torris Bright was the point guard on their championship team. He certainly has been one of the premier players in our league throughout his career. We know that we're going to have to play very good basketball against this LSU team."
To play the kind of basketball they'll need to not only beat LSU but to make some noise in the SEC Tournament, the Tigers must continue to get the production out of the upperclassmen. Particularly impressive has been the play of junior guard Adam Harrington. Coming off the bench in the sixth-man role, he has led the Tigers in scoring in four straight games, including a 16-point effort Wednesday night in Auburn's near upset of cross-state rival Alabama.
Another junior who has played well of late is Marquis Daniels. Thrust into the forward role once again after watching freshman Brandon Robinson struggle with a knee problem during the grind of an SEC season, the 6-6 Daniels has come up big in Auburn's time of need. Auburn's steadiest player throughout the season, he scored 14 points and pulled down 13 rebounds in the Alabama game. Junior college transfer Derrick Bird also had a solid game on Wednesday in Tuscaloosa with 11 points and 10 rebounds. The double-doubles by Daniels and Bird were only the fifth and sixth for Auburn this season.
Closing out the starting lineup for Auburn are point guard Lewis Monroe, shooting guard Dwayne Mitchell and forward Marco Killingsworth. All true freshmen, the trio has played solidly since being inserted into the starting lineup as a group against Georgia back on Feb. 9. With a record of 3-3 as a starting group, they have given solid minutes to Ellis both offensively and defensively. While he averages just 2.3 points, the 6-5 Monroe has been a steady floor leader for the Tigers and should continue to improve with every game he plays. The same is true of Mitchell. A tenacious defender, the 6-4 Mitchell averages 3.5 points per game and 2.3 rebounds.
Killingsworth has been the key big man inside for the Tigers in recent games. Averaging 7.9 points and 4.1 rebounds, the 6-8 native of Montgomery ranks fourth in the league among freshmen in field goal percentage at 53.1 percent. He also ranks fifth in both scoring and rebounding.
In addition to Harrington coming off the bench, the Tigers also have shot-blocking sensation Kyle Davis as a sub. The 6-10 sophomore averages 5.6 points and 5.2 rebounds per contest, but it's as a defender where Davis does his best work. With 70 on the season he has moved into second place on the all-time blocked shots list with 154 and ahead of such names as Charles Barkley and Chris Morris. He still has some work to do to catch all-time leader Mamadou N'Diaye, who had 241 in his career from 1996-2000.
After the LSU game, the Tigers return to action Thursday night at the SEC Tournament in Atlanta. Should they win in the first round, the Tigers would face either Mississippi State or Ole Miss in the second round Friday night at 6:30 CST.
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