Tigers Back In Action Thursday Vs. Winthrop

Auburn, Ala.--After a week off from competition to take a break for Christmas and regroup after a road loss at Texas A&M, the Auburn men's basketball team will take on the visiting Winthrop Eagles at 7 p.m. on Thursday.

The favorites to win the Big South Conference, Winthrop will bring a 6-2 mark to Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum to face the 5-3 Tigers.

"This is one of our better non-conference teams coming in," says Auburn coach Jeff Lebo. "They are a team that has already beaten Marquette (71-64) on the road, and they are traditionally in the NCAA Tournament.

"They have had a tough schedule and have played Alabama tight and lost a tight one to South Carolina," Lebo adds. "They are a very experienced team with juniors and seniors and a team that is used to winning."

The Eagles are led by 6-10, 245 Craig Bradshaw from Wellington, New Zealand, who averages 13.9 points and 4.9 rebounds per contest. Lebo calls the junior a "very talented" player.

James Shuler, a 6-6, 220 senior forward, is averaging 11.9 points, 3.3 assists and 3.0 rebounds for Winthrop, a team holding opponents to just 38.7 shooting from the field.

Torrell Martin, a 6-5, 195 junior guard, is averaging 9.5 points and 5.0 rebounds. He scored 24 points at Alabama this season.

Michael Jenkins, a 6-3, 185 sophomore guard, is averaging 8.6 points in a reserve role.

Chris Gaynor, a 5-10, 156 sophomore, leads the Eagles in assists at 4.3 per outing. He is a starter along with 6-8, 240 center Billy Houston, a senior who averages 4.0 points and 1.8 rebounds.

The Eagles are coached by Gregg Marshall, who has a 148-72 record in eight seasons at the college that is located in Rock Hill, S.C. Winthrop has been off since a Dec. 22nd 101-49 victory over Palm Beach Atlantic.

Freshman forward Korvotney Barber scores for the Tigers.

The Tigers are led in scoring by senior Ronny LeMelle, who averages 13.3 points per game. Frank Tolbert, a sophomore guard, is next in scoring with 9.4 per contest. Freshman forward Korvotney Barber leads the Tigers in rebounds with 5.4 per game to go with 7.1 points.

The Tigers may have help at guard this game with junior Brett Howell back on the practice court after missing most of the season and much of the preseason with a foot injury. He may be available for duty vs. Winthrop.

Auburn's last game was also on Dec. 22nd, a 72-67 loss at Texas A&M.

The Tigers hold a 2-0 edge in the series vs. Winthrop with the last meeting an 80-41 blowout in the opening round of the 1999 NCAA Tournament when the No. 1 seeded Tigers advanced to the second round at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis vs. the 16th seeded Eagles. AU is 30-6 all-time vs. the nine teams in the Big South Conference (Birmingham Southern 22-4, Charleston Southern 0-0, Coastal Carolina 1-0, High Point 1-0, Liberty 1-0, UNC-Asheville 2-0, Radford 1-0, VMI 0-2 and Winthrop 2-0).

The game will be regionally televised by Fox Sports Net with Bob Rathbun and Perry Clark calling the game. For fans attending the congest it is a "Youth Night" contest with free admission for anyone 17 or younger with a paid adult admission. The same deal is available for the New Year's Eve 1 p.m. game vs. Jacksonville State and a Jan. 4th home game vs. Southern Miss.

The Auburn women's team returns to action Wednesday night. Coach Nell Fortner's team will play UC-Davis in the opening round of the Surf 'N Slam Tournament in San Diego. Auburn is 7-4 overall and the Aggies are 5-5. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. CST. The finals will be played Friday with the winners and losers of game one matching up. Host UCSD plays Loyola in the other first round game.


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