At times on Tuesday night the Tigers made their coach's prediction look valid even though Auburn's sluggish performance was good enough to produce a 79-58 victory over the physically overmatched Bears.
The Tigers, who improved to 4-0, will find the competition much more impressive on Friday when they take on the 5-0 Oklahoma State Cowboys at 1:30 p.m. CST on Friday at South Padre Island, Tex. Miles, which was 3-0 with wins over Montevallo, Southern Arkansas and Delta State, is now 3-1.
Auburn coach Jeff Lebo was not impressed by much of anything he saw Tuesday night as his team was matched on the boards in rebounding (43 for each team). "We had a lot of plays, and I showed them even three-point opportunities where we don't finish around the basket and go to the line and miss two," Lebo said. "Instead of getting three we are coming away with zero.
"We are just a little soft around the rim and have not been strong enough to finish through a little contact," Lebo added. "That is something we have got to get better at because the boys we are playing against now are going to be a little bit bigger."
Freshman Lucas Hargrove dunks for the Tigers. He finished with 13 points and six rebounds.
Rebounding was not the only part of Auburn's play that needed improvement. The Tigers hit just 17-30 foul shots and turned the ball over 22 times. Auburn was a less than impressive 6-22 on three-pointers.
Rasheem Barrett led the Tigers with 19 points. However, he hit just 6-15 field goals and 1-6 treys while adding five rebounds, four assists and committing three turnovers.
Korvotney Barber continued his improved play on offense. He was 6-7 from the field on the way to scoring 13 points to go with a game-high 14 rebounds. He blocked four shots, had two steals and two assists plus five turnovers.
Frank Tolbert added 18 points as he hit 9-11 free throws.
Miles got 24 points and seven rebounds from Andrew Jones, a 6-3 senior guard who added four assists. Eddie Ishman, a 6-5 sophomore from Eutaw, Ala., added 13 points for the visitors from Birmingham. Miles seven-foot-one center DeMario Williams wasn't a big factor. He finished with four points and four rebounds and fouled out after just 11 minutes of playing time.
The visitors scored the first four points before Barrett broke the ice on a jumper at the 17:01 mark for the Tigers. Auburn didn't take its first lead until the 10:53 mark at 12-11 on a layup by Tolbert.
Korvotney Barber scores on a layup in traffic vs. the Bears.
Lebo's team scored the next nine points, but nearly lost the lead when the Bears got hot from three-point range with a five-guard lineup on the court to narrow the gap to 32-31 with 3:16 left before intermission. However, the Tigers outscored the visitors 11-2 to take a 43-33 halftime lead.
At the break the Tigers enjoyed a 45.7 to 35.1 percent advantage in field goal shooting, but trailed 26-20 on the boards. Both teams were turnover-prone. The Tigers had a dozen and Miles was worse with 14 in the first 20 minutes.
The Tigers doubled the margin at the 12:48 mark of the second half on back to back three-pointers by Quantez Robertson. After that the Tigers seemed disinterested in building more of a lead and coasted home to a 21-point win.
"The first half I didn't think we played very well at all," Lebo said. "I didn't think we shot the ball well, we didn't pass the ball well, we went through the motions.
"Against Winston-Salem State I thought we did some good things. I thought against East Tennessee State in the second half we did (good things) defensively. We are very limited. We have had foul troubles. We started out the game tonight and we were just horrendous--through the motions. The best full game that I think that we have had is Winston-Salem State."
Lebo did say he liked the energy from junior guard Frank Tolbert who got the Tigers' offense jump-started in the first half. However, Tolbert got into foul trouble and only played 21 minutes.
"I think that I get a little too aggressive at times," Tolbert said. "I have to know when to calm down and let things go."
A key to Auburn's victory was cold shooting for Miles, which hit just 25.8 percent from the field in the second half and 30.9 percent overall. Auburn also dominated insidewith 40 points in the paint compared to 16 for Miles.
Miles coach Chris Giles said he was proud of his team's effort. "The first half we made shots. Our guys made shots. At one time we made five out of six threes in that little stretch where we took the lead, but we couldn't maintain it. We got in foul trouble and had some fatigue.
"In the second half we didn't make a lot of shots that we made in the first half. Fatigue set in and we couldn't make any shots."
The Bears were 10-30 on threes and 6-8 at the foul line.