Tolbert, Defense Lead Tigers to Victory

Frank Tolbert stepped up with his best game of the season as the Tigers defeated Southeastern Louisiana 66-51.

Auburn, Ala.--Frank Tolbert, who had been suffering through a turnover-induced slump to start the season, snapped out of his funk with an impressive performance as his Auburn Tigers took a 66-51 basketball victory over Southeastern Louisiana on Wednesday night.

Playing the two-guard spot as well as the unfamiliar role of backup point guard, Tolbert sparked the Tigers with his hustle and good decisions on both offense and defense. Tolbert saw spot duty at the point guard because backup Michael Woodard quit the team on Tuesday citing a lack of playing time behind starter Quantez Robertson.

Tolbert led the Tigers with 13 points in 28 minutes. He added three rebounds as he made 5-8 field goals and both of his free throw shots.

Coming into the game, he had 19 turnovers, but committed just one vs. the Lions, who dropped to 5-2 while Auburn improved to 4-2 with the victory.

"When I see a one by Frank's name in the turnover column, I have got to be happy," Auburn Coach Jeff Lebo said.

Tolbert and teammate Ronny LeMelle gave their coach a scare and stopped the game with 2:31 left in the first half when they butted heads while scrambling for a loose ball. Both suffered serious cuts and had to leave the game, but returned to contribute to the victory in the second half.

"Maybe after he (Frank) got conked in the head it slowed him down a little bit," added Lebo, who has been working on getting Tolbert to play at a more controlled pace.

Another thing the coach worked on during the 10-day break since the last game was defense and that was evident vs. Lions.

Although the Tigers had a solid night shooting the ball, the key to victory was an aggressive defense. Lebo effectively mixed a tight man to man with zone traps to force the visitors into 23.8 percent shooting in the first half as the Tigers built a double digit advantage.

"We tried to confuse them with what we were doing on defense and it worked," said sophomore Daniel Hayles, who who was AU's second leading scorer with 11 points to go with five rebounds.

Lebo said he liked his group's intensity. "Defensively, we played awfully hard he said."

The coach also liked the job the Tigers did on 6-6 forward Ricky Woods, Southeastern Louisiana's leading scorer, who had attracted NBA scouts to the coliseum to watch him play vs. Auburn. The Tigers held him to 10 shots and allowed him to just make three. "I think our zone bothered him a little bit," said Lebo, who added, "He is very quick and was a tough matchup man to man."

Woods said, "We already had the game plan in for the press and made it through that with no problem, but it was the 1-3-1 zone we struggled against."

Daryl Cohen, who came off the bench to hit four three-pointers, led the Lions in scoring with 16.

Auburn shot 54.3 percent from the field to 37.5 percent for the visitors. The Tigers hit 10-15 foul shots and the visitors really struggled at the line making 6-14. AU was 6-14 on treys while the Lions hit 9-22.

After struggling with turnovers in their last game, the Tigers had just 13 to go with 10 steals while forcing 18 turnovers from the visitors.

Rasheem Barrett takes the ball inside for a score.

Freshman forward Rasheem Barrett was impressive as a reserve. He hit all four of his field goals and 2-3 free throws for 10 points. He added four assists, three rebounds and didn't have a turnover.

Freshman forward Korvotney Barber led all rebounders with eight and added six points. Joey Cameron, another freshman, got a start at forward and scored five points with three rebounds in 13 minutes. LeMelle added eight for the Tigers along with Josh Dollard, who got his points in 13 minutes off the bench.

Auburn led 27-17 at halftime as Barrett came off the bench to lead the Tigers in the first 20 minutes with seven points as his team hit 47.8 percent of its shots. The Tigers led by as much as 16 points with 1:42 left in the half after Dollard hit a pair of free throws.

The Tigers, after seeing the margin cut to eight points, pushed it back to 16 at 51-35 at the 10:59 mark on back to back three-pointers from Hayles and Robertson, who contributed eight assists with two turnovers in 38 minutes. He scored five points and added two rebounds.

The Tigers stretched the lead to 20 on another three-pointer from the corner by Hayles.

Southeastern Louisiana coach Jim Yarbrough said the Tigers were more aggressive than the Mississippi State team his Lions defeated by 11 in Starkville. "They attacked us and didn't sit back and wait for something to happen.

"They kept changing dfenses and eventually found one that worked, and they used that to their advantage," he added.

The competition is expected to stiffen on Sunday as the Tigers play Temple at 1 p.m. at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum in the final pre-Christmas home contest. The Tigers won't be in action at home after that until Dec. 29th vs. Winthrop.

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