Freshmen Lead the Way In Exhibition Opener

Forward Korvotney Barber gets a dunk in Auburn's victory over West Alabama.

Auburn, Ala.--Four freshmen scored in double figures as the youthful Auburn Tigers opened their season with a 74-54 exhibition basketball victory over West Alabama on Monday night at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

As Coach Jeff Lebo predicted, the Tigers were mistaken prone and inconsistent as 10 different players saw at least 10 minutes of court time. However, they overcame that with a 52-33 rebounding edge while holding the undersized visitors to 35.9 percent shooting.

Freshman forward Rasheem Barrett came off the bench to score 13 points to tie for game-high honors with sophomore guard Frank Tolbert.

The six-foot-five Barrett hit 5-11 shots, including 3-7 three-pointers while adding six rebounds, four assists, three steals with just one turnover in 23 minutes.

"For the first night, I think we did alright," Barrett told Inside the Auburn Tigers. "We obviously have some things we are going to have to go back to the drawing board to work on before our next game."

That next game is Sunday at 2 p.m. when the regular season starts at home vs. David Lipscomb for the Atlantic Sun Conference.

Lebo had praise for the play of Barrett, who he signed out of Marist High in Atlanta. "Rasheem Barrett was very good out there. Rasheem has been very good in practice the last couple of days. If he can consistently make shots he can help us because he has a strong, live body.

"I really liked the play, for the most part, of Quantez Robertson," Lebo added. "He made some very nice plays, basketball plays, that I liked, especially passing the basketball." The freshman point guard hit 4-5 shots, including 2-3 treys. He scored 11 points, dished out five assists and made two steals. He turned the ball over three times in 25 minutes.

Rasheem Barrett made his debut for the Tigers a solid one.

Tolbert was 5-10 from the field, but had five of Auburn's 23 turnovers as the Tigers tried to play an up-tempo, fastbreak style with mixed results. "We had way too many turnovers," said Lebo, adding that it has been a problem in practice, too.

"You obviously saw a very young team out there and you saw what young teams look like at times," the coach noted. "We did some good things. My concern is putting the ball in the basket. We had a lot of good shots and we couldn't make the shots." The Tigers hit 40.8 percent from the field and were 10-25 on threes, 6-11 at the foul line.

"I thought our guys were freshmen inside players and they were pushed around, knocked around," Lebo said. "They have got to learn the physicalness of the game. They did against Chattanooga also." Auburn played Chattanooga eight days earlier in a closed scrimmage.

Freshman forwards Korvotney Barber and Josh Dollard each finished with 10 points. Barber made five of seven shots and added six rebounds and three blocks. Dollard came out shooting. He put up 15 field goals in 18 minutes off the bench and hit five. He added six rebounds.

Another freshman was the top rebounder. Forward Joey Cameron pulled down nine for the Tigers to go with two points and two blocks in 14 minutes.

West Alabama, a Division II team out of the Gulf South Conference which was pounded by UAB in its first exhibition game, was led by guard Kevin Murphy's 12 points and four assists.

The Tigers opened with a starting lineup of freshman Robertson at the point with freshman Barber at forward, sophomore Tolbert at guard, senior Ronny LeMelle at guard and sophomore Daniel Hayles at forward. Hayles didn't score and LeMelle contributed nine points with five assists, two steals and one turnover.

The Tigers scored on their first two trips on a layup by Barber and a three by Robertson, then struggled to score for the next nine minutes. At the halfway point of the opening half, the Tigers led 16-5 as Tolbert hit a layup on an assist from LeMelle.

Auburn continued to struggle offensively the rest of the half. A three-pointer Barrett, his third of the half, made the score 31-20 at intermission.

The Tigers hit just 12-33 shots (36.4 percent) in the first 20 minutes and were 5-15 on threes and 2-4 on foul shots. The undersized visitors were even worse, hitting just 8-33 field goals while taking the bagel from behind the arc on 11 three-point attempts. For the game they hit 4-21.

Ball-handling issues early in the second half allowed the visitors to quickly erase a 37-24 Auburn lead to tie the game at 37-37 with 16:02 to play back to back steals and layups by quick guard Murphy.

Auburn took the lead for good on a layup and a free throw by Robertson with 11:47 to play putting the Tigers ahead 47-44. At the 7:37 mark the home team built the lead back to 10 on a layup by Barrett and the Tigers were not threatened the rest of the night.

The Tigers got two points apiece from Michael Woodward, Brett Howell and Moses Edun.

With a veteran David Lipscomb team next on the schedule with experienced post players, Lebo said his team has work to do before the opener. "Inside Barber, Cameron and Dollard did some good things, but they still look like freshmen out there a lot of times," he said.

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