After suffering their first loss with a dismal defensive performance in an 89-70 setback in Nashville on Sunday to Western Kentucky, the Tigers rebounded on Monday night on the strength of solid defense, good second half shooting following a sluggish start and domination of the glass. The visiting Lions made just 27.9 percent of their shots. Auburn finished the night with 50.9 percent shooting after making 61.5 percent in the second half.
Senior forward Marquis Daniels was his usual smooth self as he led the Tigers in scoring with 22 points. Daniels was 10-10 at the free throw line and added seven rebounds in 26 minutes on the court.
Guard Amir Abdur-Rahim, the younger brother of NBA player Shareef Abdur-Rahim, led the visitors with 14 points, but he made just 4-16 field goals. Teammate Terry West scored 14 points, too.
The Tigers dominated the boards 48-22, but Coach Cliff Ellis was concerned that his team made 20 turnovers, 10 more than the Lions, a team that Ellis said ran a "Princeton" style deliberate offense that forced his team to show some patience. Ellis said that the Tigers did that.
Auburn's Davis said that he learned a lesson about good defensive position in the loss to Western Kentucky that he brought to Monday night's game. "Everytime they showed me a pump fake, I went for the pump fake," Davis said of the Sunday setback. "That just taught me right there I have to add a new aspect to my game. When a guy head fakes, stay down on the floor."
Auburn never trailed although it took the Tigers 2:28 to score before Daniels converted an old-fashioned three-point play. A Davis baby-hook on a secondary fastbreak following a blocked shot by the center gave the Tigers a 9-5 lead which the Tigers stretched to 18-8 following back-to-back fastbreak buckets by Bird.
Derrick Bird goes to the hoop on Monday night.
At the break the Tigers led 28-18 despite shooting just 40.7 percent from the field. However, the Lions made just 25 percent of their field goals and were out-rebounded 24-15. The visitors kept the game relatively close by committing just four turnovers in the first 20 minutes while the Tigers turned the ball over 10 times.
The Lions cut the gap to 30-24 at the 16:57 mark, but that seemed to give the Tigers a wakeup call. With Daniels scoring inside and Auburn turning up the defensive intensity, Auburn built an insurmountable lead with a 25-5 run. Steals and slam dunks by Bird and Davis highlighted the run.
"We played with more intensity in the second half," Bird noted. "
The Tigers stretched the lead to 30 points on a long-range three-pointer from the wing by Lewis Monroe and coasted home as Ellis cleared the bench. Rodney Tucker, who is recovering from a back injury, saw his most extensive action and played 22 minutes in a reserve role. He scored eight points and added four rebounds.
"Coming from yesterday's game, you are always concerned about being somewhat lethargic or a little fragile after a tough loss," Ellis said. The Auburn coach said he was pleased with the way the Tigers played defensively, particularly with their positioning in individual matchups. "I thought our defense and board activity was so much better on the aggressive end of it than it was yesterday."
Ellis noted that the starters were 17-17 at the free throw line and the team was 19-24 for the game. He said the team continues to shoot well. "Fifty percent is what you want, but we have got to find a way to limit our turnovers." Seven different players had more than one turnover to get to a total of 20.
"I thought Marquis Daniels, as well as our defense, was a key," Ellis added.
Southeastern Louisiana, which had lost 80-58 to Vanderbilt and 87-81 to Troy State, fell to 0-3 going into a Wednesday home game vs. Belhaven. The Lions had played Auburn once previously, falling 114-60 in November 1998, which was the opening day of the season for the Tigers.
The Tigers again played without sophomore forward Brandon Robinson and freshman guard Steve Leven. Robinson is being held out of action until the Tigers get the all clear on his eligibility from the NCAA. Leven is being disciplined by Ellis for unspecified rules violations.
Auburn plays its third game of the week when South Carolina State comes to Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum for a 8 p.m. tipoff on Wednesday.