Dores A Tough Chore In SEC Tourney Opener

The Tigers must play Vanderbilt in Nashville in the SEC tournament, which starts on Thursday.

Nashville, Tenn.--For the second straight year Auburn will play Vanderbilt in the first round of the SEC tournament. Auburn won the game last year in Atlanta 77-73. This year, however, the game will be played in the Commodores' hometown of Nashville at the Gaylord Entertainment Center.

Last season Auburn's small lineup game the big Vanderbilt team match-up problems, but this season coach Kevin Stallings has more athletic players on the court.

"It was a different year and different time," Auburn head coach Jeff Lebo says. "Playing them in Nashville will be a little different, too. This is one of the most athletic teams I've seen in a long period of time, at least since Kevin has been there."

It will be the Tigers' second trip to Nashville this season, where they lost at Memorial Gym 74-50 in the first conference game of the season.

"I thought we played well for a half there at Vanderbilt," Lebo says. "They shot the ball very well at their place and in the second half got on a roll shooting the basketball, which we never recovered from."

Sophomore Frank Tolbert could be a key for the Tigers without the services of Josh Dollard in the middle. He is suspended for a violation of team rules.

Auburn finished the regular season at 12-15 overall and 4-12 in conference play. Vanderbilt had an up and down season with more wins on the road in conference play (4-4) than at home (3-5), and will need to play deep into the SEC tournament to be considered for an NCAA tournament birth.

"They're still a team that shoots the ball very, very well," Lebo says. "They can shoot the three from a variety of positions. They're an excellent free throw shooting team. They still spread you and run the Princeton-type offense and try to get a lot of looks from the perimeter."

The Commodores' leading scorer, Shan Foster at 16.3 points per game, always seems to play well against Auburn. In his last two games against the Tigers he has hit 10-16 threes and scored an average of 19.5 points.

DeMarre Carroll, a sophomore forward from John Carroll HS in Birmingham, is another player that concerns Lebo. He averages 11.3 ppg and 6.4 rebounds.

"The emergence of DeMarre Carroll has been really good for them this year," Lebo says. "He's started to play more minutes. Kevin has put him on the court more than he did early."

Vanderbilt will be without reserve forward Davis Nwankwo, who collapsed during practice on Monday. He is in stable condition.

Tip off is schedule for 6:30 p.m. CST and the winner of the game will play SEC regular season champion LSU on Friday at the same time.

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