Offense The Key For Tigers Against Bulldogs

Coach Jeff Lebo and senior Ronny Lemelle talk about Auburn's upcoming game against Mississippi State.

Auburn, Ala.--Coming off a heartbreaking 65-61 loss to LSU last Saturday at home, the Auburn Tigers (10-13, 2-8) return to action Wednesday night when they face the Mississippi State Bulldogs (13-12, 3-9) at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

Entering the game on fire after bombing in-state rival Ole Miss over the weekend, MSU is a team that has had Auburn's number recently and that's something Auburn's Jeff Lebo is hoping will change.

To do that the Tigers must get over the dsappointment following last weekend's loss. Coming very close, only to be unable to make the clutch shot when needed, the Tigers have some emotional work to do before getting back on the court again against the Bulldogs. Lebo says that one positive for his team is having more confidence in the offense after good games against Tennessee and LSU back-to-back.

"At Tennessee we shot the ball very well," Lebo says. "As a coach you look at the offense you look at the shots you get. We went a stretch against LSU where we missed eight out of nine at one point at a crucial time, but the shots we were getting were good shots. That's what you look for with your offense.

"We missed some of those at key times and I would say we're not a juggernaut of a shooting team by any stretch of the imagination, but we got good looks and we were patient to get good looks. We missed some good looks, but that's all you can ask for on offense is the type of shots you get."

Ronny LeMelle has been Auburn's most consistent offensive player this season.

This is the second meeting of the year between the two teams as the Bulldogs got the best of the Tigers by a score of 71-53 back on Feb. 4 in Starkville. In that game 6-8 sophomore Charles Rhodes had the game of his career with 21 points and a career-high 19 rebounds. For the season Rhodes leads the Bulldogs in scoring at 13.2 points per game and also averages 7.3 rebounds.

Rounding out the starting five for the Bulldogs are 5-9 Montgomery native Jamall Edmundson (12.5 points per game), 6-3 junior Dietric Slater (9.8, 4.6 rebounds), 6-4 freshman Jamont Gordon (13.7, 6.6) and 6-4 freshman Reginald Delk (8.2, 2.1). The top reserve for the Bulldogs is 7-2 center Wesley Morgan who averages 4.5 points and 5.8 rebounds a game off the bench for Coach Rick Stansbury.

Auburn is led by the play of senior Ronny Lemelle. Averaging 12.5 points per game this season, Lemelle has come on strong in recent games with an average of just over 17 points per game in his last five contests. He says that the confidence the coaching staff has shown in the team recently has contributed to the team as a whole playing better on the offensive end.

"You can tell from the performances that more people are getting confident in themselves," he notes. "They are just doing what they know how to do on the floor. The coaches are letting people play up to their strengths. They don't mind anyone shooting the ball as long as they take good shots. Everybody now, instead of forcing shots, is playing their game and playing within the offense."

Rounding out the starting lineup for the Tigers will again be four freshmen as guards Quantez Robertson (7.8, 4.1, 4.1 assists) and Rasheem Barrett (11 ppg.) along with forwards Josh Dollard (9.1, 4.4) and Korvotney Barber (6.8, 4.8) attempt to move Auburn into a tie with the Bulldogs in the Western Division of the SEC. Off the bench sophomore guard Frank Tolbert is Auburn's third leading scorer, averaging 8.8 points per contest.

Tip-off for the game is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum and there is no television for the contest.

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