Shooting, Defending Hendrix Keys For Tigers

Auburn, Ala.--A winner of three consecutive games, Auburn will try to stay hot against on Saturday at an Alabama team that has lost four straight games to begin SEC play.

After losing to Arkansas and Florida to start the conference schedule, the Tigers notched wins over LSU and Ole Miss to even up their league record, and they kept the hot hand in a 78-65 win on Tuesday against Presbyterian College.

"We are who we are," says Auburn head coach Jeff Lebo. "We've won a couple of games. We shot the ball very well in those games and defensively, we've had some things happen to us where we were able to stay out of foul trouble. We did some good things defensively to try to muck up the game a little bit. We are still the same team that has the same concerns and the same areas of weakness.

"The key for us is that we have to take care of the ball and we have to shoot the ball from the perimeter," he adds. "It's hard for us to manufacture anything easy around the rim area when we need a bucket. When we shoot the ball well, which we've shot the ball well from three the last three games, we can make it tough on an opponent's defense because we can put six or seven guys out there that are capable of shooting the three. We've made them lately."

Auburn as a team made 9-19 from long range against LSU, 10-19 versus Ole Miss and 9-16 against Presbyterian. Quan Prowell, who is playing center for the Tigers, was in a cold slump but hit 2-3 from long range on Tuesday.

Frank Tolbert, a senior, is the only in-state scholarship player for the Tigers.

The fact that Prowell, Tolbert and Rasheem Barrett can make the long shots from the center and forward spots can make things difficult for opposing teams defensively. However, Auburn doesn't have anybody that can match up inside on the other end of the court with Alabama's 6-9, 255 Richard Hendrix.

"First, when you think about defending Alabama, you think about how you're going to defend him," Lebo says of Hendrix. "He's certainly a key component of what they do. They try to get him touches, and they even try to get him touches against teams that are big. I certainly know their emphasis against us will be to try to get him a touch before anybody shoots it."

Hendrix is averaging 19.3 points and 10.3 rebounds this season.

Alabama hasn't won a game since Jan. 4 against Chicago State. The Crimson Tide has started conference play with losses to Florida, at Arkansas, at Georgia and a home loss to Mississippi State last Saturday. While Auburn has made 28-54 from long range in its three-game streak, Alabama is 22-88 in its four-game skid. Another dropoff has been the play of guard/forward Alonzo Gee. The Crimson Tide lost despite his 32-point, eight-rebound performance against the Gators. He had a five-game stretch from Dec. 23 to Jan. 8 where he averaged 22 points and 10.4 rebounds. However, in the last three games he's had just 10 ppg and 5.3 rpg.

"Shooting is streaky, good and bad," Lebo explains. "We have to do that. We have to make shots from the perimeter and we are odd to defend in that some of our better shooters are bigger guys. We've tried to do some different things to get them some shots on the perimeter.

"That's an area we have advantage," he continues. "What small areas we do have an advantage I think it's there because we can shoot them at a lot of different spots. You don't look around in our league and see centers be able to come out and shoot it or power forwards. That's one small advantage that we have."

Auburn swept the series during the 2006-2007 season.

Tipoff from Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa is set for 2 p.m. Central and the game will be televised on Raycom Sports.

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