Hargrove Looking To Spark Tigers vs. MSU

Lucas Hargrove is playing three positions for Jeff Lebo's Tigers.

Auburn, Ala.--Sophomore Lucas Hargrove was a one-man bench for the Auburn basketball team in its last outing.

If the Tigers are going to find a way to upset visiting Mississippi State on Saturday evening and snap out of their four-game losing streak, Hargrove could be a key factor in making that happen.

Auburn coach Jeff Lebo notes he likes the way Hargrove has played on both offense and defense since being sidelined by a broken bone in his wrist. The 6-6 sophomore from Pontiac, S.C., is averaging 7.1 points and 4.0 rebounds in a reserve role.

"I feel like I am back to being a hundred percent," Hargrove says. "When I broke my wrist, the biggest thing was stamina and I feel like I'm getting my stamina. I'm getting my wind back.

"I feel like I have a big role," Hargrove adds. "I'm the spark-plug of the team. When we don't have any energy, I've got to bring energy. I just feel like when I get in the game there can't be a stoppage in flow. I have to get in and go with the flow of the game."

Hargrove's Tigers suffered a 66-63 homecourt loss on Wednesday night to Kentucky in a game they had chances to win until the closing seconds. "It's hard when you are losing, and it is real hard when you lose close games," he says.

"I feel like a couple plays here and there and we win that game," Hargrove adds. "You win some, you lose some and we are going to win some. We going to pull some through. We've just got to get older and more mature as a team. Stuff will start coming."

The Tigers are at the halfway point of the SEC season 2-6 in the league and 12-9 overall with a team short on depth. Mississippi State is playing better basketball than the Tigers and than it did earlier in the season. The Bulldogs are 6-2 in the league, tied for the lead in the SEC West, and 15-7 overall.

Lebo says the Bulldogs feature one of the league's most talented players in 6-4, 230 guard Jamont Gordon, who is averaging 17.8 points and 6.0 rebounds. "He is a handful for anybody to defend," says Lebo, who nottes that Gordon is shooting 41 percent from three-point range in his last five games.

Jamont Gordon

Gordon is expected to be a load to guard for the Auburn defense and 6-9, 210 sophomore center Jarvis Varnado is the nation's top shot blocker. He is swatting away 4.9 per game, which is more than many teams, include Auburn, average per contest. He is scoring 7.0 points per game and averaging 8.0 rebounds.

Charles Rhodes, a 6-8, 245 senior forward, averages 14.8 points and 7.5 rebounds and 6-4 sophomore guard Barry Stewart is averaging 12.2 points and three assists.

Lebo was concerned with Auburn's lack of offensive production vs. Kentucky. Hargrove hopes to do something about that for Saturday's 6 p.m. tipoff at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum. Hargrove has worked on his strength to improve his inside scoring and at the same time is shooting better than ever from three-point range.

"I have been getting in the gym lately, and I've been trying to work on that (three-point shooting)," he says. "I feel like a big part of shooting is confidence, and if you have got a lot of confidence, you are going to make more of your shots. I'm just trying to be real confident when I step up and shoot the ball."

Hargrove is a natural small forward, but has been pressed into duty at power forward and at times even has to play center. He says he is happy to get into the games no matter where he plays.

"I'm not one of those guys that's real big on minutes, I'm real big on wins," Hargrove says. "If play one minute and we win, I'm happy, if I play 40 and we win, I'm happy. Whatever I can do to contribute."

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