AUM Holds Off Late Rally to Top Tigers

A report on Auburn's surprising exhibition loss to Auburn-Montgomery is featured.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn's sloppiness from start to finish came back to bite the Tigers as they dropped a 69-64 exhibition basketball game to Auburn-Montgomery on Tuesday night at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

Auburn turned the ball over 26 times and never could get into a flow offensively. The visitors had 11 fewer turnovers, which turned out to be a major factor in the outcome.

AUM is an NAIA school coached by former Tiger standout Larry Chapman. He noted it felt strange beating his alma mater and called it a "David vs. Goliath" matchup.

"We were very fortunate," Chapman said. "That might happen once again in a 100 games. Tonight you saw it. It was what it was. I had kind of mixed emotions. I never wanted to beat Auburn before."

Chapman said despite the embarrassing loss for the Tigers of the SEC that Auburn fans should expect Coach Jeff Lebo to produce a strong team at AU. "He is going to be very good here and his program is going to be very successful," Chapman said. "This game tonight was in no way an indicator of anything other than we fortunate enough to hit some big shots at critical times and then we had a couple of plays go down late for us that helped us."

Auburn trailed much of the second half, falling behind by as many as nine points at the 11:05 mark of the second half, but Auburn had its chances to win in the final minute.

Auburn pulled ahead 64-63 with 48 seconds left on a pullup baseline jumper by Archie Miaway. However, the Senators came up with one of the big baskets that Chapman talked about as guard Joseph Manual hit a jumper to put the visitors ahead with 32 seconds left.

Auburn turned the ball over 16 seconds later on an offensive foul by Quantez Robertson, his fifth, as he tried to drive the baseline. AU then fouled Joseph on the in-bounds pass and he hit both free throws to stretch the AUM lead to three. He led the Senators in scoring with 21 points.

Auburn's Rasheem Barrett then got up a good look on a three-point jump shot that bounced off the rim with a chance to tie the contest. The Senators got the rebound and iced the game with two more free throws by Manuel with one second left.

Auburn's Lebo said the turnovers were a major problem as well as his team's struggles at the foul line. The Tigers hit just 5-14 free throws while AUM made 17-23.

"We made some poor decisions on fouling jump shooters," said Lebo, who credited the Senators with playing a strong all-around game.

"We didn't make very bright plays," Lebo said of his Tigers. "We put them on the foul line a lot. The team that is on the foul line the most usually wins. This was the worst game I've seen Quantez (Robertson) play in a long time. He got into foul trouble and we had to play some young guys."

Junior guard Frank Tolbert led the Tigers with 21 points before fouling out in the final minute. He also led all rebounders with 10. Korvotney Barber scored 16 points, Miaway added 11 and Barrett scored 10.

"They played some good ball by getting up in us and got us out of our comfort zone," Tolbert said. "We couldn't run any of our set offenses. I give credit to them. They played a great game."

Lebo said he is concerned the loss will be a blow to his young team's confidence, but Tolbert said he doesn't think that will happen. "We are just going to come back to practice and get ready for Troy State on Friday."

Auburn shot 49.1 percent from the game and hit 7-22 threes. The Senators hit 40 percent of their shots and made 8-21 threes.

Neither team scored for 2 1/2 minutes to start the game before Tolbert broke the ice with a three-pointer. The sophomore scored 11 of AU's first half points.

AUM then scored 10 uncontested points with three baskets by sophomore guard Ronnie Hickman, who led the Senators in the first half with nine points.

AUM kept the lead until the 10:00 mark when Barber's tip-in tied the game at 14-14. Auburn took the lead on its next possession on a hook shot by freshman Matt Heramb and built the lead to five on a tip-in by Tolbert to make it 27-22 with 3:34 left in the half.

The Tigers failed to capitalize on chances at the foul line and AUM cut the margin to 34-32 at halftime. The Tigers missed seven of their nine free throw opportunities in the opening 20 minutes.

Auburn's lead was the result of 51.9 percent field goal shooting to 36.7 for the visitors and a 23-14 rebounding edge. AUM forced 13 Tiger turnovers and committed eight.

"I was afraid the team would be a little bug-eyed playing here tonight, but we have guy who can make shots and who can compete," Chapman said. "We played for a full 40 minutes tonight and we played hard. The difference in this game was that we had a deeper bench than they did. Basketball requres energy and we had a real edge there.

"We hit shots that were critical and we hit them at times that set us apart," Chapman added. "We played very soundly and our defensive effort was definitely a factor. We didn't have bad match-ups because Auburn only has one big post player."

Forward Nathan Thomas scored a dozen points for the Senators and was thrilled with the result. "We played Mississippi State in the last (exhibition) game and we forced 35 turnovers," he said. "We knew that if we capitalize on those tunrovers and close in on their guards we could get a win up here and we did."

Thomas, who drew the charge on Robertson that helped seal the victory for the Senators, "Our goal this season is a national championship (NAIA) and this is a good step towards that goal."

After the four scorers in double figures, the next highest scorers for Auburn were Lucas Hargrove and Matt Heramb who had two points apiece. Robertson and his backup at point guard, DeWayne Reed, each had a single point. Robertson had an unusual game with five turnovers to go with his five assists.

"They played better than us," Lebo said. "We missed shots early on and we took some bad shots. They are bigger than us. They made key shots and we had a hard time stopping them."

Lebo added, "It hurts our kids' confidence. We have a young and fragile group. It's a good thing that this game doesn't count. We are not too happy tonight. Troy is going to want a piece of us and it is frustrating for the kids."

Auburn opens the regular season on Friday with a 7 p.m. home game vs. Troy University.

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