Tigers Rally Late to Win Basketball Opener

Korvotney Barber's double-double leads the Tigers to victory.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn again struggled with its shooting, but made enough key plays to overcome a nine-point second half deficit to win the regular season basketball season opener as the Tigers edged Troy University 71-68 on Friday night.

The Tigers woke up the Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum crowd of 4,400 with some clutch play down the stretch to pull out the victory.

A three-point basket by Quantez Robertson with just over a minute to play cut the Troy lead to 68-67. With 26 seconds left Rasheem Barrett took a three-pointer from the wing that was way short. However, Frank Tolbert was there to clean up the garbage. He put in a layup to give the Tigers a 69-68 lead.

Sophomore forward Korvotney Barber then came through with an equally big play as he blocked a shot. Troy was forced to foul and Tolbert hit both ends of a one-on-one with 1.5 seconds left to ice the victory.

It was fitting that the go-ahead basket was scored off an airball considering the way the Tigers shot on Friday night. Jeff Lebo's team was 9-32 from three-point range and a dismal 6-15 at the free throw line while finishing the game by making 40.6 percent of its field goals.

Auburn's big edge came on the boards as the Tigers enjoyed a 54-38 advantage with Barber pulling down a career-high 16 rebound on his way to his first collegiate double-double as he tossed in 13 points on 5-10 shooting.

"I thought that was a tough game for us because they played us the entire game in zone," Lebo said. "I knew they were going to play us zone so in two days we had to put a lot of zone offensive sets and prepare...I thought our kids for the most part handled it. We didn't shoot it great by any stretch, but I thought we showed a little toughness at the end. We made some big plays at the end."

Quantez Robertson scores inside for the Tigers.

Troy, which is known for putting up three-pointers, took the same number as Auburn (32) and also made the same number (nine) as the Tigers.

"We knew they were going to shoot," Lebo said. "They were leading the country in the last three years in three-pointers made per game so we knew they were going to put them up.

"It was a wild game, actually," Lebo added. "A lot of quick shots, at least on their end. I thought Korvotney Barber was terrific on the glass. I thought Quantez Robertson played an outstanding game and showed some toughness in a critical time."

Robertson bounced back from a poor performance vs. AUM to score 12 points, dish out eight assists while having just three turnovers in 39 minutes. Backup point guard DeWayne Reed added seven assists and had just two turnovers in 19 minutes of action as Robertson spent part of the game at shooting guard.

Lebo called the victory a "huge win" for his team that is down to eight scholarship players due to an injury and two suspensions. "We are just trying to find a way to get through it all," he said. "We have a lot of limitations. I am disappointed a little bit in our ability to make shots. We got some good looks. We have got to be able to make shots."

The coach had praise for 6-9 freshman forward Matt Heramb who hit 3-4 field goals, added two rebounds and a steal in 15 minutes off the bench. "I thought Matt Heramb was terrific out there," Lebo said. "He showed me some good stuff. He is a good passer. Especially against zones he got us some good looks passing the basketball."

Archie Miaway struggled in his first regular season game as a Tiger. He hit just 2-9 field goals and was 1-4 at the foul line and spent much of the second half on the bench.

Barrett joked after the game that his airball at the end of the game was really a pass. "It wasn't a shot," he said with a grin. "Everybody thinks it was. I saw him (Tolbert) cutting to the basket with my peripheral vision and I just dropped it to him."

On a more serious theme, Barrett admitted the Tigers need to shoot the ball much better. "We have got to concentrate and make our shots," he said "We are still a pretty good shooting team. We are going to take this week we have off and work on our shooting and get a lot better at that."

"Overall we just didn't shoot well," said Troy coach Don Maestri. "We had several wide open shots that we need to make in the future. It was a tough loss, but a good win for Auburn."

The Trojans, who led 35-33 at halftime, were led by 21 points and 12 rebounds by Richard Chaney, a transfer guard from Utah. O'Darien Bassett added 13 points for Troy.

The lead changed 15 times and Auburn's largest lead was seven points in the first half.

The Tigers take on Winston-Salem State next Friday at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

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