Tigers to Face Visiting South Alabama

Auburn, Ala.--With more transfers on the roster than a trainload of subway commuters, South Alabama comes to Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum for Auburn's final basketball game before a 10-day layoff for final exams.

The Jaguars from Mobile are expected to offer a bit of a test, too. The defending Sun Belt Conference champions, South Alabama brings a 5-2 record into the Wednesday contest vs. the 6-3 Tigers. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. as part of a doubleheader with the women's team facing Jackson State at 5:30 p.m.

"South Alabama is an excellent basketball team," says Auburn coach Jeff Lebo. "They can shoot the basketball. You can tell this year they have got a little swagger about them because of the success that they had the year before.

"They have got some new players, also," Lebo says. "They have got a lot of transfer guys. They had a lot of transfers this year that are really helping them. I have been really impressed with Daon Merritt, who transferred from Richmond. He can really shoot it. He looks like he has eyes in the back of his head. He is an excellent passer."

Merritt, a 5-9, 190 junior from Jamaica, N.Y., is one of six transfers in South Alabama's top seven. He averages 11.7 points and 6.0 assists per game.

The leading scorer is 6-5, 210 junior guard Demetric Bennett, a transfer from SMU who is averaging 16.9 points and 5.9 rebounds for Coach John Pelphrey's team.

The rest of the starting lineup features 6-7, 220 sophomore forward Brandon Davis (6.6 points, 5.7 rebounds), a transfer from Birmingham Southern along with 6-7, 225 senior Leandro Buboltz (8.7 points, 4.7 rebounds) from Brazil, a transfer from South Plains Junior College, and 6-0 senior Carlos Smith (9.9 points, 4.0 assists).

The two teams last met in 2001 with Auburn winning 73-58. The series is tied 4-4 with the Tigers winning three of the last four meetings.

Off the bench the Jaguars feature 6-7 forward Kenny Hooks (4.8 points), a transfer from Oregon State, and 6-2 guard Stephen Cowherd (4.7 points), who moved to Mobile from Mississippi State.

The Tigers feature four starters who are scoring in double figures led by Korvotney Barber, who is averaging 15.1 points and a team-leading 7.8 rebounds.

Frank Tolbert is scoring 13.4 points per contest and is followed by Rasheem Barrett at 13.2 and Josh Dollard, who averages 12.7 points and 7.7 rebounds.

Josh Dollard has added a spark to the Tigers. He says he is stronger physically than he was as a freshman.

Lebo says the challenge for his team will be defending an opponent that is averaging 9.4 made three-pointers per game. "When they are shooting the basketball they have three or four guys who can put the ball in the basket from three and those teams have given us some trouble with some quickness at the point guard position.

"We put a lot of time and energy into Pitt," Lebo adds. "We have got to be ready to bounce back from that disappointing loss and be ready to play against a very good South Alabama team that will be very hungry and ready to play."

The Tigers gave No. 2 ranked Pitt a close game on Sunday.

South Alabama has wins over Cal-Irvine (67-63), Winston-Salem State (76-58), Morehead State (70-55), West Florida (91-71) and Samford (59-54). Losses have come against Fresno State (73-63) and Bowling Green (65-64). The only common opponent is Winston-Salem State, a team the Tigers defeated 95-62 on Nov. 17th.

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