Ellis Appreciative Of Effort From His Tigers

Auburn, Ala.--No matter what veteran basketball coach Lefty Driesell and his Georgia State Panthers tried on Tuesday evening against Auburn on a special night for Coach Cliff Ellis, the Tigers had an answer for it and often more than one.

Auburn jumped on the visiting Panthers and coasted to a 100-71 victory at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum. Starters Marquis Daniels, Marco Killingsworth, Kyle Davis and Derrick Bird took 48 shots and made 36 of them for an Auburn team that hit 68.3 percent of its field goals as a team, as Ellis became the 34th coach in Division I history to reach the 500-victory mark.

"It has just been a wonderful journey," said Ellis, who improved his career record to 500-311 and his Auburn mark to 152-99 with the victory. He posted a record of 171-84 in his first Division I head coaching job at South Alabama. From Mobile he moved to Clemson where his record was 177-128.

"I made a point to bring a token from each school and carry it with me and I shared it with my players," Ellis said. "It is done now and it is time to move forward. I am ready to put it behind me. What a special moment it is for me and I am truly blessed."

His tokens were conference championship rings he won at South Alabama, Clemson and Auburn and he put them on during the game. "I told the team that I would wear them tonight because I was carrying them for all of the players that have played," Ellis noted.

Coach Cliff Ellis is shown during his 500th career victory on Tuesday night.

Marquis Daniels said he believed the players were just as excited for their coach as Ellis was himself. "I just told the guys to come out and play ball and just leave everything out there on the floor--don't leave anything in the locker room," the senior guard/forward said. "Everyone came out and played with tremendous effort both inside and outside."

Daniels did his part by making 12-15 shots to lead all scorers with 27 points. He also was the game's leading rebounder with 10 and added seven assists as he made a serious run at completing the first triple-double in Auburn hoops history. He also played outstanding defense and added three steals in 31 minutes of action.

Auburn hit the 100-point mark in the final minute with walk-ons Danny Wicke, Jamaal Arnold and Johnathan Lewis in the game as newcomer Rodney Tucker put an exclamation point on the evening with a two-hand, slam dunk.

"Our defense was good, it was solid," Ellis said. "It was an up and down game. It was a tremendous game to watch because it was up and down, full of a lot of energy. There were a lot of great plays, not only from our side. I thought Georgia State made some tremendous plays themselves. They are going to be fine in their league (Atlantic Sun)."

Marco Killingsworth, who contributed 24 points and six rebounds, said hitting the century mark on points was not what the game was about on Tuesday. "We were thinking, ‘Let's just beat these dudes and get his 500th win.'"

An athletic Georgia State team with excellent size spent much of the game trying to cool the hot-shooting Tigers with a man-to-man and other defenses, but nothing worked for veteran Driesell. "Lefty played some zone, some triangle and two and some two-three zone and changed it up, but he had to go to the pressing game at the end," Ellis said. "He tried a little bit of everything, but whatever he threw at us, we just handled it."

Ellis and the Tigers return to action on Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Gaylord Entertainment Center in downtown Nashville, Tenn., where they will face Western Kentucky. "Western Kentucky is always a team that gets after you defensively and they have good inside-outside balance," Ellis said.

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