Tigers Preparing For Upset-Minded Mercer

Auburn coach Jeff Lebo discusses the preparations for the Mercer game scheduled for Wednesday night and updates the health of guards Dewayne Reed, Frankie Sullivan and Rasheem Barrett.

Auburn, Ala.--Last season the Mercer Bears went to USC and defeated the Trojans before making a trip to Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum to face Jeff Lebo's Auburn Tigers. This season Mercer again pulled off a big upset before the Auburn game as the Bears defeated Alabama 72-69 Sunday night in Tuscaloosa.

For the game Mercer pounded Alabama 56-38 on the glass and won the game despite connecting on just 5-18 shots from behind the arc. The Bears are led by talented guard James Florence, who scored 23 in the win over the Crimson Tide. Throw in big man Daniel Emerson in the middle and Calvin Henry and Lebo said it makes for a touch matchup for any team.

"They've got a nice inside-outside combination," Lebo said. "They've got a lot of guys who are really solid players. You look at the way they beat Alabama. As big and strong as Alabama is, they whipped them on the glass. That concerns us coming into the game. They've got some size at the two and three position."

Auburn comes into the game after opening the season Friday night with a comfortable 75-60 win over Missouri State in which Korvotney Barber scored 22 points to lead four Tigers in double figures. Last season Barber scored 10 points, pulled down seven rebounds and added five blocks in a 68-59 Auburn victory. With that memory and the recent win over Alabama, Lebo said his team should be more than ready to play Wednesday night.

"I don't think they really needed to get our attention because we played them last year," Lebo said. "They didn't win a lot last year, but they beat USC before we played them last year with O.J. Mayo. Now they go and beat Alabama at Alabama.

"They've got some kids that sat out last year that are playing this year like Emerson. He gives them something inside. They didn't really have that presence last year. They've got a guard in Florence that can beat you by himself. He's one of the best guards we'll play all year. He can score and beat you off the bounce."

Helping Auburn's cause could be the addition to two players that have missed time with injuries already this year. Sophomore guard Dewayne Reed has a ruptured blood vessel in his ankle suffered in last Friday's game, but has returned to practice as has true freshman guard Frankie Sullivan, who has missed the last three weeks with a sprained ankle. Lebo said both could be ready to go against Mercer, but the same can't be said for senior Rasheem Barrett, who has missed time with a groin injury.

"Reed practiced the first half of practice and we had to bring him out," Lebo said. "I think he's going to be okay. Frankie practiced and he's progressing nicely. I look for him to play. He's missed a lot of practice and the timing is still off, but I think he'll be ready to go. Rasheem is doubtful for the game."

Wednesday's game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. start. The Tigers will be back in action on Saturday at 1 p.m. with a home game against George Washington at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.


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