Tigers Preparing for Road Trip to Rocky Top

Auburn will hit the road for a Wednesday night SEC basketball game against the nation's second-ranked team.

Auburn, Ala.--In what looks to be the toughest test of the year for Jeff Lebo's basketball Tigers, Auburn heads to Knoxville on Wednesday night for an SEC road test against the nation's No. 2 ranked team.

Tennessee, 23-2 overall, 10-1 in the SEC and 13-0 in home games at Thompson-Boling Arena, is a heavy favorite to knock off the Tigers, who will bring a 13-10 overall mark and a 3-7 SEC record into the contest.

Lebo notes that although both teams rely on quick, athletic guards, a big difference is that Coach Bruce Pearl's team is much deeper than the Tigers and most teams in college basketball. "We play six or seven guys and they play 11," Lebo says.

The Vols feature one of the top guards in the country in 6-2 Chris Lofton, who leads the team in scoring with 15.5 points per outing. Another 6-2 senior guard, JaJuan Smith, is averaging 14.4 points per game.

Lebo notes that Iowa transfer Tyler Smith has been impressive, too. The 6-7, 215 sophomore forward is averaging 13.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game plus 3.8 assists.

Size-wise the Vols won't tower over the Tigers like some teams do, but 6-9, 242 Wayne Chism, who is averaging 9.2 points and 6.1 rebounds, has more size than anyone the Tigers will put on the court for Wednesday night's game that will tip off at 6:30 p.m. CST.

UT comes into the contest with a six-game winning streak after nipping Georgia 74-71 in Athens on Saturday. Auburn snapped a five-game losing streak on Saturday with a 90-78 win at Ole Miss.

Lebo says he liked what he saw from a variety of players in that game including Quan Prowell, DeWayne Reed, Quantez Robertson and even little-used reserve Matt Heramb, who has struggled in conference play. Reed scored a career-high 23 points and Prowell led the Tigers with 25 points as he made 11-15 shots.

Matt Heramb has been AU's second player off the bench with the Tigers down to seven healthy scholarship players.

The Auburn coach is even more impressed with the Vols, who will play one of the most anticipated games of the college basketball season on Saturday night when they travel cross-state for a non-conference showdown with unbeaten and top-ranked Memphis.

"They are one of five teams in the country capable of winning the national championship," Lebo says. "They have a little bit of everything. They can flat out score the ball. They play 10 or 11 guys double figures minutes. They don't have one guy averaging more than 29.5 minutes per game. Depth is a factor, especially coming down the stretch here. They have senior guards who can flat out put the ball in the basket, and they are a tremendous offensive rebounding team."


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