Defense Leads Tigers To Victory In Opener

Auburn held visiting David Lipscomb to 29.6 percent shooting in opening with a 69-54 victory on Sunday.

Auburn, Ala.--A fast start and strong defensive performance was all the Auburn basketball team needed to earn a 69-54 win in the season opener against the Lipscomb Bisons Sunday in front of a quiet crowd at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

"It is big for the guys to come out with a win," said Auburn head coach Jeff Lebo. "The kids are feeling good about themselves.

"I thought we played extremely hard for the entire 40 minutes," he added. "I thought we made some improvement. If you watched us play against West Alabama and you watched us play today I hope you saw some improvement. There was some improvement and we kept it up defensively for the majority of the game. We kept them out of rhythm and they didn't shoot the ball particularly well against us."

Starting three freshmen--Quantez Robertson, Josh Dollard and Joey Cameron--as well as sophomore Frank Tolbert and senior Ronny LeMelle, the Tigers opened with a 9-0 lead and held the Bisons without a field goal until the 11:24 mark left in the first half.

The defensive effort by the Tigers was something Lebo had been preaching to his team since the exhibition game against West Alabama on Nov. 14.

"After the exhibition game coach told us that we weren't playing good, solid defense," LeMelle said. "We weren't in position, we weren't jumping to the ball, we weren't rotating--all of the little things that make a defense work."

Lipscomb was limited to just 16-54 shooting for 29.6 percent, including just 5-25 on threes.

"This whole week in practice we wanted to worry about defense," said freshman Rasheem Barrett. "Coach wasn't really worried about our offense much and he wanted us to work on our defense and that is what we came out and did."

Auburn shot much better than its counterparts, hitting 27-61 field goals from the floor during the game and 13-27 shots behind the three-point arch.

"Ever since I've been in high school, coaches have been telling us that you run the play and you'll get open shots," said Barrett, who finished with 13 points and four rebounds in his collegiate debut. "Coach Lebo got us in the right spots and right plays and the better you screen and the better the pick, the better you get open and that's what the whole team tried to do."

The Tigers looked young at times in the first half committing 12 fouls and 10 turnovers and also allowing Lipscomb eight offensive rebounds, but 11 points apiece from LeMelle and Barrett was enough for Auburn to hold a 37-26 halftime advantage.

Barrett, a true shooting guard, connected on 3-4 three-point attempts in the first half as the Tigers made 8-14 from beyond the arch in the first 20 minutes. Barrett's performance was the most impressive of a large class of class of newcomers, which includes McDonald's All-American Korvotney Barber, who didn't score until 14:30 remaining in the game and finished with only four points and three rebounds.

Lebo noted that Barber had missed practiced after twisting his knee. Initially, the team's medical staff was concerned it could be a serious injury.

Ronny LeMelle played 35 minutes for the Tigers in his first regular season game since having knee surgery last year.

LeMelle led all scorers with 19 points on 7-12 shooting for the game against a team that had given Kentucky a scare last week at Rupp Arena.

Auburn played much more fundamental basketball in the second half with only eight fouls and five turnovers.

The Auburn lead grew to as much as 17 in the first half and 21 points with 11:51 remaining in the second half after the only dunk of the game, that by Auburn's Daniel Hayles. Tolbert ended the game with a steal and breakaway slam, but the buzzer had sounded just before he threw it down.

The Bisons won the rebounding battle 39-37, but committed 19 turnovers, compared to only 15 by Auburn. Robertson, who played 26 minutes at point guard for the Tigers, didn't commit a single turnover while adding six assists and seven defensive rebounds.

"Coach said we needed to limit our turnovers,"Robertson said. "Last game we had 23. In practice he told us we had to cut back on turnovers and if we turn the ball over we had to run. Everybody focused more on not trying to turn the ball over as much as we did last game.

"I feel pretty confident with the way I'm playing and being a leader on the team," he added. "It's a big step for me because I'm a freshman. I have got to look to do certain things on the court and off the court."

Backup point guard Michael Woodard didn't commit a turnover either in 14 minutes while adding three assists.

"I was proud of how Quantez Robinson played in his first game," Lebo said. "He made our team good tonight. I thought Quantez was terrific out there, moving the ball up and down the court. We beat a good basketball team."

Eddie Ard led Lipscomb in scoring with 13 points, while Shaun Durant was the game's high rebounder with 13.

Auburn's next game is Friday at 7 p.m. at home against Gardner-Webb, a team which nearly beat defending national champions North Carolina on Saturday.

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