AU's Shooting Touch Returns In Win Over Vandy

For the first time in his three seasons at Auburn, Jeff Lebo's Tigers are off to a 1-0 start in the SEC basketball race.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn coach Jeff Lebo said his basketball team needed to break out of its shooting slump, particularly from three-point range, and that is exactly what happened as the Tigers opened the SEC season with a 68-65 homecourt victory over Vanderbilt on Saturday.

In particular the coach noted that sophomore swingman Rasheem Barrett needed to get back on target with his outside shooting. That is exactly what happened as Barrett hit six of nine treys on the way to a game-high 22 points. The six made threes is a career high for Barrett.

Joining the three-point parade in a big way was Josh Dollard, the sophomore forward, who had hit just 3-19 treys so far this season. On Saturday he made 4-5 treys, including a big one down the stretch, as the Tigers improved their record to 11-5.

"It was big for our confidence to win," Lebo said. "It is big for our confidence to win against a good team and get our first SEC win. It was good to see something positive happen for the kids, even if it was just one day."

Auburn needed every made shot on the way to the victory. The lead changed eight times. Vanderbilt led by as many as five in the first half.

The Tigers were ahead by as many as 12 points at the 16:20 mark of the second half, but lost the lead at the 7:55 mark on a jumper by Shan Foster as the Tigers had a cold-shooting stretch that included ball-handling errors. Vandy built the lead to 60-56 at the 4:55 mark on a layup by guard Jermaine Beal before AU changed the momentum with an unusual play.

With 3:41 left, Auburn's worst foul shooter, Korvotney Barber, stepped to the line with two foul shots and a chance to tie the game at 61-61 after Barrett had cut the lead to one with a trey from the wing.

Barber had missed his first three free throws, but got a kind roll as the ball banked in and spun around the rim before dropping in to cut the gap to one. Barber said he heard someone in the crowd of 6,088 yell bank it again and that is what he did, however, Lebo noted that he was skeptical his sophomore forward did it on purpose.

At the 3:05 mark Barber gave the Tigers the lead for good and there was no luck involved. He used his quickness and left hand to score inside to put the Tigers up 63-61.

Neither team scored again until the 2:09 mark when Dollard launched a three from the top of the circle that stretched the lead to five.

Vandy whittled the lead to one with a hook shot by Alan Metcalfe and two free throws by Veal at the 1:12 mark.

Nursing the one-point lead, the Tigers got a clutch basket on a baseline jumper from Quan Prowell to stretch the lead to 68-65 with 16 seconds left. Vandy's Dan Cage and Beal each got three point looks, but neither shot went and Frank Tolbert grabbed the rebound and ran out the clock.

Quan Prowell battles for position on the boards. He scored seven points, had one rebound and one blocked shot.

"They made shots and we didn't play good enough defense," Vandy coach Kevin Stalling said.

Stallings was also unhappy with his team's 16 turnovers, two more than the Tigers had, and the 9-17 free throw shooting also irked the coach. Auburn only got to the foul line five times and Barber was the only player to take a free throw for the Tigers.

"We knew they were good shooters," Vandy's Foster said. "Just because they hadn't been shooting the ball well lately doesn't mean they are not a good shooting team. Unfortunately, tonight was their night to get things back going."

Auburn's Dollard said he was well aware that he was 3-19 on treys this season, but said he has been working with one of the managers in his free time trying to get his three-point shot back in a groove. "The hard work paid off," he said.

Dollard said winning the first conference game is very important. "We prepared hard, we came in focused because we had an upset loss against Southern Miss. We felt like we owed ourselves this win."

Like Dollard, Barrett said he has been working on his own on his three-point shooting. "I came in before practice and after practice this week working on my arc," he said.

"Last year we played them (Vanderbilt) in the first game and they beat us by around 20 or 30 points," Barrett points out. "That hurt us. We played them in the SEC Tournament and we had them, but they came back and beat us by, I think, five. This win gives just gives us so much more confidence going into the SEC."

The lead changed hands four times in the first half as the Tigers took a 38-31 lead into the locker room.

Barrett was the key scorer for the Tigers in the first half. He led all players with 13 points as he hit 5-7 shots, including 3-4 three-pointers. Tolbert had seven at the break and Robertson scored six as the Tigers hit 46.9 percent of their shots, including 8-15 treys.

Cage led the Commodores at halftime with eight points. The Commodores hit just 30.3 percent of their shots, but kept the game close by making 8-17 three-pointers.

The Tigers got 12 points from Barber and nine from Tolbert as they hit 44.8 percent from the field. Vanderbilt made just 37.9 percent, but kept the game close by out-rebounding the Tigers 43-31.

Vandy was led by Cage's 19 points and Foster scored 14 points and added 10 rebounds.

"We needed this (win)," Lebo said. "Looking at this league, you don't know where you are going to get one (win). We are at Kentucky next, we are at LSU after that and then we come home and play Tennessee and then we have got Alabama and Florida."

Statistics and Box Score on team front link

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