Bulldogs Pose Matchup Issues for AU

A preview of Auburn's SEC road trip to Mississippi State is featured.

Auburn, Ala.--Now in a tie for third place in the division after knocking off in-state rival Alabama on Sunday, Jeff Lebo's Tigers face a much bigger challenge on Wednesday night as they take on SEC West leader Mississippi State in Starkville.

Tipoff time is set for 7 p.m. from Humphrey Coliseum where the 18-8 Bulldogs are waiting. Coach Rick Stansbury's team has a two-game lead in the division with a 9-3 conference mark. Arkansas is second at 7-5 and Auburn and Ole Miss are next at 4-8.

With Auburn sweeping the season series vs. Ole Miss, for SEC Tournament seeding purposes the Tigers are currently number three in the division. Alabama and LSU are just behind at 3-9.

The Bulldogs have been hard on the Tigers recently and have won the last three matchups, including an 83-64 decision in Auburn on Feb. 9th. The Tigers have lost on their last seven trips to Humphrey Coliseum after winning four in a row at the home to the Bulldogs.

Sophomore Lucas Hargrove, one of the stars of Auburn's victory over Alabama on Sunday, says that the Bulldogs are a difficult matchup for the Tigers because of their inside power, outside shooting, depth and toughness on the court.

Auburn coach Jeff Lebo agrees with Hargrove, who scored a career-high 28 points vs. the Tide, and says that 6-8, 245 senior forward Charles Rhodes "may be the most physical post player in the league." Rhodes, who scored 17 points and pulled in 10 rebounds vs. the Tigers in the first game, is averaging 15.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.

Another big issue inside for the undersized Tigers is 6-9, 210 sophomore center Jarvis Varnado, who leads the nation in blocked shots at 4.6 per game. He also contributes 8.0 rebounds and 7.2 points per game.

Jamont Gordon

While there may be some debate about who is the most physical post player in the league, when it comes to the most physical point guard in the SEC there should be little debate on the subject with 6-4, 230 Jamont Gordon a player Lebo says is tough for any team to deal with at 6-4, 230 pounds with good quickness. Gordon, who averages 17.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists, burned the Tigers with 24 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists earlier this month.

Lebo says that another reason the Bulldogs are a matchup problem for the Tigers and many other teams is that they have multiple three-point shooting threats. Barry Stewart, a 6-2 sophomore, is averaging 12.1 points per contest. Ben Hansbrough, a 6-3 sophomore, is averaging 10 points per outing.

After making just his second start of the season and performing so well for Lebo, Hargrove is expected to start again on Wednesday night. The sophomore hit 9-12 field goals, 3-6 threes, 7-9 free throws, added six rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals without a turnover.

"He was active offensively," Lebo says of the 6-6, 200-pound guard/forward's play vs. Alabama. "He took the ball to the bucket a few times as well. He got to the foul line and made his free throws."

Lebo notes that Hargrove's three-point shooting and defensive play in the 88-76 victory over Alabama were positives, too.

"His confidence shooting the ball from three has been an area where he maybe made the biggest improvement," Lebo says of Hargrove. "He really struggled last year shooting the ball in practice. He is stronger and is close to 200 pounds now, which has helped him in our league to take the beatings.

"I think he has put on 30 pounds since he's arrived here," Lebo points out. "It doesn't look like it, but he has. I think that has helped his confidence to at least hold his own at times in around the basket area and to be able to take the ball to the basket, take the hit and finish at the rim."

Korvotney Barber

Basketball Notes: Quan Prowell, who earned praise from Lebo for his all-around play vs. Alabama, is leading the Tigers in scoring with 15.1 points per game and is the leading rebounder among active players on the roster with 6.1...Forward Korvotney Barber, AU's top rebounder, is still not ready to practice at full speed as he rehabs from broken bones in his hand. Lebo says there is a good chance the junior is done for the season and will apply for a medical hardship redshirt...In the last three games, Quantez Robertson has dished out 24 assists with just six turnovers. Against Bama the junior scored eight points on just three field goals, finished with seven assists without a turnover and added four steals and six rebounds. Robertson played all 40 minutes in the win over Bama, the seventh time this season he went the distance...Another player hot over the last three games is Prowell, who is averaging 22.7 points per game on 61 percent shooting in those contests including 9-18 threes.

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