Tolbert Leads Tigers to Exhibition Victory

Auburn, Ala.--Frank Tolbert scored 25 points, added six rebounds plus six assists in leading the Auburn basketball Tigers to an 89-75 exhibition victory over Bluefield College on Thursday night at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

Tolbert's good play and solid shooting from the field from his teammates were enough to allow the Tigers to hold off the visitors, who made 13 three-pointers against an Auburn team that made just two.

Auburn also struggled at the foul line, making just 19-34 free throws. However, a commanding 54-33 rebounding edge helped the Tigers to victory.

"The first half we did some good things, the second half it wasn't quite as good," Coach Jeff Lebo said. "These games are odd games to play. Their big guys stepped outside and shot it. They are a different type of team to play."

Bluefield shot 69 times and 42 were three-pointers as the visitors from Virginia played an up-tempo, run-and-gun style. "Luckily they didn't shoot too well from three and we did a good job on the glass," Lebo said.

"We were much bigger than they were, but we left a lot of points at the foul line again, which has been a problem for us in the past," the coach said.

Commenting on Auburn's three-point shooting, Lebo said, "Two of 14 is not particularly good. Hopefully, we can shoot them better."

The game mark the debut of 7-1, 285 center Boubacar Sylla, who finished with eight points, six rebounds, one assist, two steals and three turnovers in 19 minutes of action.

"I think you could see out there he has got a chance," Lebo said. "He is learning the game. He is learning what it takes every day to be good at it. He has picked up things pretty good. I thought for the first game he did a lot of good things. What was impressive to me more than anything, we had a loose ball and he dove on the floor."

After his first college game, Sylla said, "I am pretty satisifed. "For my first game, I was a little wondering how I would do against a team with small, fast player."

Lebo said he liked how Sylla handled himself. "He will be better, too, against a bigger player," the coach predicted. "It is very hard for a big guy to play against those guys who are down around his kneecaps."

Korvotney Barber scored 16 points for the Tigers and added nine rebounds.

With Josh Dollard out for the season and Quan Prowell suspended until December, the Tigers had a different look in the starting lineup, especially without Rasheem Barrett, who injured his neck earlier in the day in a physical education class.

Lebo said he didn't expect Barrett to play, but noted the junior didn't look like his normal self. Barrett was 2-7 from the field and finished with five points and three rebounds.

The starting lineup featured Lucas Hargrove, Barber, Tolbert, DeWayne Reed and Quantez Robertson.

After a slow start the Tigers took the lead with 14:26 left in the opening half at 12-11 on a pair of free throws by Sylla. The Tigers quickly stretched the margin to double digits and led 48-36 at halftime.

Barber led the first half effort for the Tigers with 12 points and six rebounds. DeWayne Reed, who got the start at guard, scored eight first half points and added four assists. Matt Heramb chipped in with seven first half points off the bench while seven-footer Sylla came off the bench to add six points, four rebounds and an assist.

Auburn kept the lead in double figures much of the second half, but the visitors kept it close with three-point shooting. With 4:13 to play Bluefield cut the lead to 76-70, but Auburn regrouped and stretched the lead back into double figures before settling for an 89-75 victory.

Reed and Barber finished with 16 points for the Tigers. Barber, who tweaked an ankle in the same gymnastics class in which Barrett was injured, limped off the floor in final minutes, but the problem was just a cramp.

Matt Heramb scored 11 points and added five rebounds in 15 minutes off the bench and earned praise from Lebo for his play.

Frank Tolbert made 10-14 field goals and 5-7 free throws for the Tigers.

The Tigers turned the ball over 20 times, eight more times than the visitors who hit 34.8 percent of their field goals and 14-21 free throws. Auburn shot 54 percent from the field despite the lack of success from three-point range.

Quantez Robertson led the Tigers in rebounds with 10, but the junior guard only scored two points and only took three field goals. "I just wasn't able to shoot the shots I wanted," Robertson said. "I was trying to take some good shots and trying to get the team involved like I always do."

Lebo said that he wants to see Robertson put up more shots in coming games. "He and DeWayne Reed are going to have to be offensive threats for us," Lebo said. "DeWayne was an offensive threat a little bit more tonight. I talked to him a little bit before the game about it.

"I always have to talk to Tez--he is such an unselfish guy, but at this point, where we are with our team, he needs to get a little more involved. We need to get eight or 10 points a game from him. He can get them in a variety of ways."

Curtis Dixon, a 6-3 junior guard, led Bluefield in scoring with 22 points. He was 6-14 from the field and made three treys in 10 tries. James Chapman, a 6-0 senior guard, added 14 points for the visitors, who relied on quickness with only two players on the roster taller than six-foot-five.

The Tigers open their season on Nov. 9th with a road game in New Orleans vs. Tulane.

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