Playing much of the time with four guards on the floor, Auburn improved to 9-2 as Quan Prowell led the way with 20 points and six rebounds for the Tigers. Texas A&M Corpus-Christi, an NCAA Tournament team with 27 wins last year, fell to 3-9.
Prowell also played well defensively facing seven-foot center Chris Daniels, who hit 5-12 field goals for 13 points while adding eight rebounds. Several NBA scouts were at the game to check out the 7-0, 265-pound center, who is a senior for the Islanders.
Prowell made 9-13 shots for the basketball Tigers, who hit 50.9 percent from the field compared to 42 percent for the Islanders.
"We are smaller now so we have to use our quickness against the bigger players we play against," says Prowell, a senior who has played guard, forward and now center for Lebo the past two seasons.
Lebo said a key to Auburn's success was forcing 26 turnovers, a figure that put the Tigers at plus 14 for the game. That easily helped Auburn overcome a 36-29 rebounding deficit against the taller Islanders.
Another key for Auburn's victory was working around two quick fouls to senior Frank Tolbert, which limited the guard to four minutes of playing time in the first half. Tolbert, who is now playing all five positions for the Tigers, scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half.
"I thought Larry Williams, a freshman redshirt walk-on, did a nice job while he was out there, especially in the first half until we could get (Frank) back on the court," Lebo said. "Frank had a better second half when he was on the floor."
Williams played 19 minutes and scored seven points. He hit 3-5 field goals, picked up two rebounds and added two assists and a steal without a turnover.
Rasheem Barrett sparked Auburn in the first half with 14 points. He took just three shots in the second half and did not score in that period.
The Tigers got 10 points from DeWayne Reed and eight from Quantez Robertson, who had seven assists, three steals and just one turnover.
"I thought we moved the ball," Lebo said. "We had 19 assists. I thought we did a good job there."
The Islanders scored the first four points, but Auburn was able to pull ahead 7-6 at the 14:58 mark on a fast break basket by Barrett as the Tigers made a 10-0 run to take a 12-6 lead with 12:15 left in the half.
Auburn built the margin to 20-11 with a three from the corner by Barrett with 9:12 left in the half. The junior scored 14 points in the first half.
The Tigers built the lead to double figures as Prowell threw down a dunk on an old-fashioned pick and roll play with Robertson getting the assist to put the Tigers on top 36-25 with 1:38 before intermission. The Islanders scored the next four points to cut the halftime lead to seven.
At halftime the Tigers were shooting 46.4 percent from the field to 40.7 for the Islanders, who were 3-9 on threes while Auburn made 4-9 threes.
Junior guard Frank Tolbert handles the basketball in traffic vs. the Islanders.
The visitors were careless with the basketball in the first 20 minutes with 13 turnovers, seven more than Auburn. However, a 22-15 rebound margin for Texas A&M-Corpus Christi kept the game close along with Auburn's foul line woes as the Tigers hit just 6-14.
The Islanders continued to chip into the Auburn lead to start the second half. At the 18:22 mark AU's edge was down to 36-34, but the Tigers scored nine straight points before Texas A&M-Corpus Christi coach Perry Clark called a timeout at the 14:52 mark after a mid-range jumper by Reed made the score 45-34.
Auburn continued to build its lead that reached 22 points at the 9:47 mark following fastbreak baskets by Prowell and Williams.
The Islanders cut the lead to 65-52 in the closing minutes, but a dunk from Prowell on a beautifully executed play followed by a three-pointer from Reed put the Tigers up 70-52 with 4:10 left and put the game out of reach for the visitors.
Lucas Hargrove played eight minutes and didn't score or have a rebound.
Lucas Hargrove made his first appearance since being injured in practice nearly a month ago. "I appreciate his effort to come back," Lebo said. "He hadn't practiced in four weeks. He got his cast off today and doctors said he could go. He gave us some minutes out there as a body, but obviously when you don't go live for a month it is hard.
"We will be able to get him in some reps in practice and it will be helpful to have another body out there. I appreciate him. He wanted to go. I didn't want to play him, but he wanted to go. He knew the situation we were in. He didn't practice, but he wanted to get out there and help us."
Auburn returns to action on Sunday with a 2 p.m. home game vs. Xavier.
Basketball Notes: After making strides at the foul line the past three games, the Tigers regressed hitting just 13-23...The Islanders made 9-12 free throws...Both teams made seven threes in the game. The Islanders put up 20 and the Tigers took 18 treys...Korvotney Barber, who was injured last Saturday, is expected to have surgery on Friday, said Lebo, who noted he doesn't expect to have his leading rebounder and scorer back for five or six weeks in a best case scenario...Freshman center Boubacar Sylla, who has been out with a foot injury, is expected to get X-Rays soon and may be able to return to practice soon. He is expected to redshirt.