Tigers Win "Ugly" Vs. Cowboys

The Tigers improved to 3-1 with a 91-76 victory over the McNeese State Cowboys.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn overcame 20 turnovers and some inconsistent play to take what Coach Jeff Lebo termed an "ugly" basketball victory over McNeese State on Thursday night at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

The Tigers, 3-1, were never seriously threatened after the opening minutes, but weren't able to blow out the visiting Cowboys from the Southland Conference.

The Tigers hit 54.7 percent of their shots from the field, which proved to be the difference in the game. McNeese made 44.4 percent of its shots. Both squads had 20 turnovers. Both squads had 34 rebounds.

"Offensively, I thought we did some nice things," Lebo said. "We got some good shots and shot a high percentage from the field. We didn't shoot great from three, but we had some good looks.

"We had too many turnovers and a lot of fouls so they make the game long and ugly. I will take an ugly win any day if we can win it."

Ronny LeMelle led all scorers with 17 points. The senior forward hit 6-13 shots, including 3-8 treys.

Rasheem Barrett came off the bench to chip in 15 points in 22 minutes. The freshman forward hit 5-11 field goals and 3-8 treys.

Freshman forward Josh Dollard, who was scoreless in the first half, finished with 12 points after being challenged by the coaching staff to play better during the intermission.

"In the second half, I thought Josh Dollard was a lot better," Lebo said. "The first half I don't know he was doing."

Dollard acknowledged the halftime discussion made a difference in his game. "I think I was in La-La Land in the first half," he noted.

Lebo substituted freely and did it early as a crowd of 4,238 watched. Ten Tigers saw action in the first six minutes and seven scored in the first half.

Auburn took the lead for good at the 16:05 mark of the first half on a basket by freshman Joey Cameron that put the home team up 8-6. The lead ballooned to double figures at the 8:34 mark on a three-pointer by LeMelle putting the Tigers up 26-14. The biggest margin was 15, but by halftime the Cowboys cut the lead to 44-36.

The Tigers hit 51.6 percent of their shots in the first half while McNeese State was right behind at an even 50 percent. The visitors matched the Tigers on the boards with both teams having 18 rebounds.

Michael Woodard takes a shot vs. the Cowboys.

The Tigers quickly took the lead back to double figures to start the second half on an old-fashioned three-pointer with a dunk and free throw by Josh Dollard.

The Tigers matched their largest lead less than three minutes into the second half on a steal and stuff by Dollard putting them up 53-38.

The lead hit 20 on a backdoor cut layup by LeMelle eight minutes into the second half after the Tigers scored their previous nine points at the free throw line.

AU's largest lead was 22 points with nine minutes to go, but the visitors outscored the Tigers by seven points the rest of the way.

Lebo said he was pleased with the play of his point guards, Quantez Robertson and Michael Woodard. Robertson scored 11 points with eight assists and just two turnovers. Woodard scored eight points and had four assists without a turnover.

"I thought Quantez was terrific again," Lebo said. "He made two turnovers. One of them was a bad decision on a pass. He was pretty good for a freshman against a team that does a lot of changing defenses. They gave us some different looks to try to rattle him. He and Michael were both pretty good handling the ball."

Lebo was not happy with the play of sophomore Frank Tolbert. "We had five turnovers from him," the coach said. "I didn't play him much. He has got to cut them down. He had six in the last game and five in this game in not many (15) minutes...His decision making has got to get better. He puts himself in bad situations where bad stuff is going to happen."

J.T. Williams led the Cowboys with 14 points and eight rebounds. Troy Aaron added 13 for Coach Tic Price's team, which fell to 2-2.

"Auburn is a young team, but they played fearlessly," said Price, a former Auburn assistant. "I think their future is bright and Jeff has the program headed in the right direction."

Price also said, "I thought Dollard did a good job in the second half and LeMelle did a good job in the first half. Unfortunately, we didn't shut them both down for the whole 40 minutes. We did a good job on one in the first half and and one in the second half."

The Tigers hit the road for their next outing as they travel to play the Pitt Panthers of the Big East.

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