Tigers Dominant In Win Over Temple

Auburn handed Temple its second-worst loss in school history under legendary coach John Chaney on Sunday.

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn Tigers team played solid on both ends of the floor Sunday and dominated Temple from beginning to end to earn a 73-42 victory over the Owls. The victory improves Auburn to 5-2 on the season while Temple falls to 5-3.

"I thought we played really well and it was probably the best game we've played since I've been here," said Auburn coach Jeff Lebo. "Offensively we played well and passed the ball very well. We got open looks. Even when we missed them we made the extra pass.

"I'm a little stunned actually," he added. "We were awfully sharp today and caught Temple at a good time. They didn't play particularly well or as good as I've seen them play in the past. Some of that had to do with Auburn defensively. I thought we were pretty good."

The 31-point deficit tied for the second largest for Coach John Chaney in his 25 years at Temple. He says his team was simply outplayed by the younger and more aggressive Tigers.

"They just blitzed us and our players, as I've said many times before, feed off of scoring," Chaney said. "That's the tragedy of our team. When they're not making baskets they're not playing basketball. You've got to have players that can shoot, and we just don't have that right now. When we're shooting the ball we're hard to beat. The other team knows what I know. We're a jump shooting ball club."

Temple made just 15-57 shots from the floor for 26.3 percent, while Auburn his 24-56 shots for 42.9 percent. The Tigers also connected on 11-24 three-point attempts.

Auburn ran its offense and defense to near perfection in the first half in building a 45-23 lead by halftime. The Tigers attacked the Owls' 2-3 defense the right way from the start of the game with a back door alley-oop dunk from Quantez Robertson to Frank Tolbert and then using ball movement to open up a three-pointer by Robertson to claim a quick 5-0 lead.

Temple hung tough for the next 12 minutes of action, but with Auburn leading 19-16 Robertson found Tolbert again for an alley-oop slam to start a 14-0 run for the Tigers.

"We worked on that play in practice and it worked to perfection in the game because we knew they were going to play a lot of zone," Tolbert said. "It just worked."

The sophomore guard continued to show his athleticism by stealing the ball from under the Owls' goal and racing 94 feet for a layup to give Auburn a 23-16 advantage.

The Tigers' 1-3-1 half-court press gave Temple problems at the end of the half as several steals led to fast break baskets and Auburn scored the final seven points of the half to claim a 45-23 lead.

"They just played harder today in every aspect of the game," said Owl point guard Mardy Collins, a preseason All-American candidate. "We didn't rebound, we didn't play any defense, no one shot the ball well, we didn't attack the 1-3-1 like we were supposed to. We just came out flat. We didn't do anything today.

"Everything they did we expected, but we really didn't expect when they went to man that they were going to trap the wings like that," Collins added. "Every other thing was expected they were going to do but we didn't execute like we had practiced all week."

Chaney said his team practiced for Auburn's 1-3-1 zone but just didn't execute against it when it mattered.

"We must have practiced it for two and half hours yesterday," Chaney said. "We looked at tapes of them and we looked at their failures. We've seen that before and we use it ourselves."

Auburn hit a school-record 18 three-pointers in a 80-78 win at Temple last season and continued to shoot well against the Owls zone by hitting 7-12 three point attempts in the first half.

The Tigers went on dry spell from the floor to start the second half by only scoring five points in the first nine minutes of action. However, Temple hit just 5-28 shots from the floor in the final 20 minutes and was unable to cut the deficit to less than 18 points.

Auburn's Emanuel Willis, a transfer from Southern California seeing his first action in an Auburn uniform, ended the drought and got the Tigers rolling again offensively with a dunk. Following a break-away dunk by Collins on the other end of the floor, Ronny LeMelle hit a pair of threes as Auburn scored 11 straight points to put the game well out of reach with a 70-35 advantage with 5:19 to play.

"We knew we were going to win the game, but I personally didn't think we'd win by 30," LeMelle said. "We attacked their zone better than what was expected.

"We were switching Ds and just playing good defense," he added. "We kept switching and it kept them off balance and they couldn't get into their offense."

Tolbert led Auburn in scoring for the game with 14 points, 12 coming in the first half, followed by LeMelle with 12 and Rasheem Barrett with 11.

Collins was the Owls' leading scorer with nine points.

"We took them out of their rhythm again and we did a good job against Collins," Lebo said. "Collins is a terrific player and a lot of NBA guys think he might be the best point guard in the country. In playing man-to-man we were worried about how we were going to stop his size because he's a good one-on-one player. We did a good job on him throughout the game."

Another telling aspect of the game was in the rebounding category, where the Tigers dominated by pulling down 51 compared to just 30 by the much bigger Temple squad.

"The rebounding margin was stunning to me," Lebo said. "Joey Cameron did a terrific job in his time out there rebounding the basketball. Daniel Hayles battled and got some rebounds. Again we did it by committee and played a lot of people out there. It was a good win for our team."

Auburn committed 15 turnovers to only 11 by Temple, but Lebo said he was proud of the way his point guard attacked the 2-3.

"Quantez was terrific again, 8:1 (assist to turnover) against that zone," he said. "They've got size in it and they play the passing lanes. We just played good basketball today. It was nice seeing Emanuel Willis out there. He helped us gives us another athletic live body. He'll help our depth inside and we'll be able to play a lot of people in there."

Willis scored six points and grabbed six rebounds in 21 minutes of action.

"I was expecting to get nine or 10 minutes," said the 6-7 forward. "I didn't expect to get 21. It was crazy. It felt like it had been 10 years since I'd played a basketball game. I had the jitters at first when I was out there but I got my second wind and I was ready to go."

Lebo said that his newcomer will continue to provide a lift inside where the Tigers have played three freshmen--Cameron, Korvotney Barber and Josh Dollard.

"I didn't think he'd play that much, but he did some good things out there on the high post and passing the basketball," Lebo said of Willis. "Defensively he was pretty alert. He's earned his right to be in there and he's paid his dues. He's like a freshman now. He's played about 30 minutes now total in college and he did some good stuff out there."

Auburn will hit the road and travel to College Station, Texas, to take Texas A&M on Thursday, Dec. 22 at 8:30 p.m. CST. The Tigers didn't play well in their road trips to Colorado State or Pittsburgh earlier this season, but Lebo hopes his team will play a bit tougher against the Aggies.

"We've played well at home," Lebo said. "We played pretty decent against Colorado State, but Pitt was just a disaster. Now are we able to do it against good competition on the road? We'll get another true test here against a very good Texas A&M. We've got to find a way on the road to play better and play more physical."

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