Defense Sparks Auburn in Victory Vs. Warhawks

Auburn, Ala.--The Tigers have laid enough bricks at the foul line this season to qualify to become masonry experts. That trend continued Saturday, but Jeff Lebo's team didn't suffer a fourth straight loss due to strong defensive play and solid shooting from the field.

Auburn forced 29 turnovers from Louisiana-Monroe as the Tigers cruised to a 78-55 victory on Saturday at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

Quantez Robertson finished the game with five steals as Auburn improved its record to 4-4 vs. the now 2-4 Warhawks. Lucas Hargrove contributed to the defense with four steals and plenty of hustle. Newcomers at guard, Tay Waller and Frankie Sullivan, each had three steals.

The Tigers made just 12-26 free throws. Hargrove was the worst offender with four misses on seven free throws. As a team the Tigers' 46.2 percent free throwing shooting total was below the 48.4 percent the team shot from the field.

"Foul shooting has cost us," Lebo said. "That is frustrating as a coach. I think we beat Dayton if we shoot a normal percentage. Mercer the same way--we fouled them too much so the foul line has really hurt."

Despite the free throw shooting woes, the coach said he believes the Tigers are improving. "I think progress is being made," the coach stated. "Again, we have got a lot new faces. (Brendon) Knox and (Johnnie) Lett are guys that we really have to bring along."

Lett started, but played just 13 minutes, and finished the game with six rebounds and no points. He was 0-3 from the field.

Knox was 2-2 from the field and scored four points and added three rebounds in 10 minutes.

Korvotney Barber was Auburn's inside scoring threat vs. the Warhawks. The senior made 8-11 field goals and led the Tigers with 18 points and six rebounds.

Waller scored 15 for the Tigers, making 3-6 threes and 5-8 from the field. DeWayne Reed added 14 points and four assists as the point guard.

"Today's game was all about execution and defense," said Reed, who noted the Tigers had been working on their offensive sets in practice this week.

"It felt good to get win," he said as the Tigers ended their three-game losing streak. "We had close games. We are playing hard."

Hargrove was the other Tiger to score in double figures. He finished with 11 points, six rebounds and three assists. Reed said that Hargrove's energy on the defensive end of the floor got his teammates energized.

Lebo said he liked what he saw from the Hargrove, pointing out the junior hadn't played well in recent games.

"I thought defensively, we were pretty good tonight forcing 29 turnovers," said Lebo, who put a dozen players on the court. "Everybody got a chance to play a little bit."

The Tigers took the lead for good at the 8:56 mark of the first half on a layup by Barber to put Auburn up 21-19. Auburn steadily stretched its lead as the Warhawks had difficulty scoring.

The lead mushroomed into double figures at the 5:08 mark when Waller nailed a three-pointer. By halftime the Tigers were up 40-26.

The Tigers hit 42.4 percent of their first half shots to 40 percent for ULM. Waller led the Tigers in scoring at the break with 11 and Reed was next with 10.

Malcolm Thomas of the Warhawks was impressive in the first 20 minutes. He hit 7-10 field goals, including 4-6 threes, and had 18 points at the break.

"The first half, the kid Thomas was phenomenal," Lebo said. "He made some tough shots. He had 18 points and I don't think he had a point in the second half. He was the one guy in the first half who just kept them alive. We made him a priority defensively to make him put it on the floor (dribble) a little bit more."

The big difference statistically in the first half was Auburn having eight turnovers to 16 for the visitors.

The Tigers were cruising until midway through the second half when the Warhawks began a run and cut the lead to 58-48 with 8:54 left, but that was as close as they would get. By the 3:37 mark a dunk by Knox stretched the Auburn advantage to 71-50.

Auburn finished with a 38-35 rebounding edge and hit 6-21 threes while ULM was 8-21 on threes.

The Tigers have a break until they play at home On Dec. 17th vs. Tuskegee.

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