AU Hoops What to Watch: Opening Night

A preview of Auburn's season-opening men's basketball game vs. Missouri State.

Game One

Who: Missouri State at Auburn

When: 7 p.m. CST, Friday

Where: Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum, Auburn

What to Watch: Newcomer Tay Waller sparked Auburn's offense in a 98-50 exhibition victory over Morehouse College last Friday with 27 points in 21 minutes. The juco transfer two-guard nailed 7-12 threes and did it with style.

The Tigers are also expected to start another newcomer, Waller's teammate at Okaloosa-Walton Community College the past two seasons, Johnnie Lett. The 6-8 junior forward pulled in 10 rebounds in the exhibition game and won praise for his defense.

Senior guard Quantez Robertson and senior forward Korvotney Barber are two of the most experienced players in the country and have been regulars in Auburn's starting lineup since they were freshmen. Barber is coming back from wrist surgery that ended his season in game 10 last year and was a big sluggish in the exhibition game. Robertson had his A+ Game on display vs. Morehouse.

Korvotney Barber averaged 13.8 points and 6.9 rebounds per game last season.

Lucas Hargrove, a 6-6 junior, is expected to start at small forward for the Tigers in place of injured senior Rasheem Barrett.

Friday's game is the first-ever matchup between the Tigers and Missouri State, a team that finished 17-16 overall and 8-10 in the Missouri Valley Conference last season. The Bears have averaged 19.8 victories per year the past five seasons.

Chris Cooks averaged 24.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in two exhibition games for the Bears, who are led by first-year head coach Cuonzo Martin, a former Purdue assistant. Cooks is a 6-4, 220 forward who averaged 8.6 points and 4.5 rebounds last season. He is the leading returning scorer for Missouri State.

Injury Updates: Auburn returning senior starter, Rasheem Barrett, may be able to play after missing much of the preseason work with a serious groin injury. If he does play, it will be surprising if he sees substantial minutes...True freshman guard Frankie Sullivan won't play due to an ankle sprain suffered on Oct. 31st, but could be back for game two.

Worth Noting: This is Jeff Lebo's fifth season as head coach of the Tigers. His mark at Auburn is 57-63 and he is 3-1 in season openers.

Worth Noting, Part II: In addition to Lett, the Tigers have two more big men juco transfers to watch. Brendon Knox is a 6-10 center and Francis Aihe is a 6-9 center/forward.

Worth Noting, Part III: Parking will be available on Friday night in the lot north of Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum and west of Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Opening Night, Part II: While the men are opening at home, the 20th-ranked Auburn women's team will also open the 2008-2009 season at 7 p.m. with a road game at Alabama A&M.

Who's on Deck: Lebo's Tigers will be at home for game two vs. Mercer next Wednesday.


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