Basketball Tigers Look to Rebound Vs. Cowboys

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn will try to bounce back from its Monday night loss at Colorado State when the Tigers take on the McNeese State Cowboys on Thursday evening at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

Tipoff time is 7 p.m. CST as former Auburn assistant coach Tic Price brings his 2-1 basketball team to face the Tigers. Like Auburn, the Cowboys will be trying to rebound from a loss. They fell 58-50 on Saturday at Richmond.

Price has a 62-55 record in five seasons with the Cowboys and is 155-109 overall as a head coach.

"They will play a little 2-2-1 three-quarter court (press) so they try to slow you down a little on the defensive end," Auburn coach Jeff Lebo says. "They don't shoot the ball particularly well from the outside. They are more drivers of the ball. Knock on wood--as soon as I say that they will drain about the first nine. They are an athletic team, they are a put it on the deck and drive and an offensive rebounding team."

J.T. Williams, a 6-5, 200-pound senior, leads the Cowboys. He is averaging 18.3 points and 7.0 rebounds. The four other starters all average in the eight points per game range.

Quentin Gonzales, a 6-5, 260 junior forward juco transfer, is averaging 8.0 points and 8.3 rebounds.

Ryan Price, a 6-2 sophomore guard and the son of the head coach, is averaging 8.3 points and 3.3 rebounds.

John Ford, a 5-10 sophomore point guard, is averaging 8.7 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists in his first season as a starter.

Darris Manciel, a 6-11, 205 senior center, is averaging 8.7 points and a team-leading 7.3 rebounds per outing.

"I hope we will respond after a long trip to Colorado," Lebo says.

Senior Ronny LeMelle is leading the 2-1 Tigers in scoring at 12.3 points per game. Freshman Josh Dollard is next at 12.0 and leads the team in rebounds with 7.0 per contest.

Freshman Quantez Robertson, a pleasant surprise early in the season, is averaging 8.3 points, 5.0 assists and 4.3 rebounds. He has a very impressive 7.5-1 assists to turnover ratio.

"He gives us a little different dimension out there," Lebo says of the 6-3, 190-pound left-hander. "What I like about him is that he is able to pick up things quickly. He is one of the few freshmen I have ever taught two positions to and he handles it very well."

The coach adds, "His savvy on the court, his maturity has been good for a freshman. He is awfully competitive. In the first three games he has taken care of the basketball."

The Tigers dropped a 77-67 decision at Colorado State in their last outing. Lebo says he liked his team's intensity, but notes the Tigers committed way too fouls (42 foul shots for CSU) and made too many mistakes, both physical and mental.

Daniel Hayles is a key player for the Tigers at the small forward and power forward positions.

Sophomore forward Daniel Hayles agrees with his coach that Auburn fought hard to try to get the win in its first road game of the season, "I was pretty satisfied. I know we have a lot to learn, but we are improving every day."

Lebo says that he hopes to see sophomore Frank Tolbert bounce back from a disappointing game vs. Colorado State and the coach hopes to see more production from LeMelle, who finished with just six points in a team-high 36 minutes of court time in Fort Collins.

McNeese State, which is located in Lake Charles, La., plays in the Southland Conference. The Cowboys, who returned three starters from a 13-16 team, are hitting 41.7 percent of their field goals and are 15-49 (30.6) on threes while hitting 66.2 percent at the free throw line.

The Cowboys opened the season with a 68-63 victory over Mary Hardin Baylor and then defeated Louisiana Colege 98-46 before losing at Richmond. They will play at LSU following their trip to AU.

Auburn Hoops Notes: The Auburn Tipoff Club is sponsoring the first ever pre-game Tiger Walk before a basketball game. It will take place on the east side of Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum at 5:30 p.m...Auburn is 1-0 all-time vs. McNeese State. The Tigers took a 78-74 win over the Cowboys in November 2001...Junior Brett Howell has been bothered by a foot problem since the preseason. Lebo says the guard will be taken to a specialist to see exactly what is causing the problem. He has played in all three games, but has just six minutes of court time...After Thursday's game, the Tigers will travel to Pitt for a contest against the 4-0 Panthers...The first 1,000 fans entering the coliseum will receive free Auburn Basketball Centennial Season lapel pins prior to the McNeese State game.

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