Lebo Says Tigers Still A Work In Progress

Jeff Lebo discusses his Auburn basketball team as the Tigers prepare to open Southeastern Conference play on Saturday.

Auburn, Ala.--As Jeff Lebo's third Auburn basketball team prepares for its SEC opener, the coach says he believes it is a more talented squad than the ones that finished 4-12 in the conference the past two seasons.

"I think we are better than we were," says Lebo, whose Tigers will play Vanderbilt at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum. The game will be televised regionally on Fox Sports South.

"We have had a much harder schedule," Lebo says. "I think the record of the teams we have lost to is 62-8 now. We have had good days and bad days.

"We are still awfully young," the coach adds. "You have got to realize that. We don't have a senior on the team. Our experienced guys really don't have a lot of experience.

"We have had to play different guys coming at different times in the year, which has messed up the rotation a little bit so I think we are behind as far as this year is concerned figuring some things out because we have had different guys at different times."

The Tigers, who are 10-5 against non-conference opponents, will be trying to bounce back from a 56-54 loss they suffered on Tuesday night at Southern Miss. Vanderbilt, which is 10-4, won the same evening with a 74-69 victory at Rice.

"We could have easily won the Southern Miss game," Lebo says. "I think defensively we played well enough. We had four possessions in that game when we were tied up and we missed a shot...We just couldn't put the ball in the basket. We had too many turnovers. We have to shore up some things with our turnovers. I think we are passing the ball much better than we have in the past. When we don't turn it over we are getting a lot of assists."

Last year the Tigers played Vandy twice. The Tigers lost on the road vs. the Commodores at Memorial Gym in Nashville 74-50 to open SEC play and then fell to Vandy 76-71 in the opening round of the SEC Tournament in Nashville to end the season.

This year the Tigers won four straight games to open the season before losing to nationally ranked Oklahoma State and Wisconsin teams. The Tigers won two straight before losing to nationally ranked Pitt and ran off three more wins before falling to Texas A&M, another nationally ranked opponent. Since then they Tigers have beaten Charleston Southern and lost to Southern Miss.

"Our non-conference schedule has been pretty nasty and we played two of those games without three players who are going to play a lot for us," Lebo says. "We are still trying to figure it out who is going to be playing, who is going to be accountable, who is going to perform for us.

"I think we are still looking for shots to go down consistently on the perimeter," the coach notes. "We are looking for somebody on the perimeter who can make those shots. We are much better than we have been in the past. The problem is now that we are going into a league that was preseason the number one basketball league in the country. We are trying to get better when the league is at its peak."

Unlike some years, Lebo says that looking at the schedule there don't appear to be games that look like sure wins, even if his team plays well. "You don't know where you are going to get one," he points out.

"With the league this year, I think the teams that have been on the bottom are a little bit better this year. Georgia is better. They have played a hard schedule. Ole Miss has got three or four seniors that are playing. I think they are a little bit better. I think we are better. Whether that translates into more "W's" I don't know because the league is so dang good."

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