The New Year's Eve basketball game was Auburn's sixth straight victory, the longest winning streak for Barber as a Tiger and for Jeff Lebo as Auburn's head coach. The Tigers are 9-4 overall while the Lions fell to 6-6.
"It feels real good," Barber says of the winning streak. "I think we need to just keep doing what we have been doing. We need to keep working on our free throws. We are still missing a lot of free throws. I think we are playing good as team although we need to cut down on our turnovers."
Auburn made 27-39 free throws in the foul-filled game for a 69.6 percent average. However, that was much better than the visiting Lions, who were just 11-26 at the free throw line.
"I thought Vot was terrific," Lebo said of Barber's play. "He was very good defensively. He did an excellent job for the most part on (Patrick) Sullivan who is long and athletic." Sullivan a 6-9 junior who was averaging 12.2 points and 8.3 rebounds, finished the game with six points and three rebounds.
Lebo also liked his team's defense and said that was a key to victory on a night the Tigers made just 39.3 percent of their field goals. The visiting Lions didn't do much better. Both teams got off 56 shots. Auburn made 22 of the field goals and Southeastern Louisiana hit 23.
The Tigers got down by a dozen points in the first half before rallying to take a five-point edge at halftime. "Coach just said minimize turnovers and go to the boards hard," Barber says of the strategy that got the Tigers back on top. "They had a few fastbreak points, too, so (he told us) to get back on defense in transition. I think we did a pretty good job of doing that tonight and came out with a good victory against a good team."
Pro scouts came to the coliseum to check out Southeastern Louisiana senior Kevyn Green, who led the Lions in scoring with 17 points. However, he made just 6-15 field goals and Lebo said that senior Quantez Robertson and junior DeWayne did a good job of defending Green, particularly when the game was on the line in the second half.
Auburn's full-court pressure defense caused the Lions problems. The Tigers forced 22 turnovers and Lebo noted his team was able to convert a good number of those plays into points.
Barber agrees that was a big part of the win. "They didn't seem to be prepared for our full-court trap so we took advantage of that," he said.
Reed led all scorers in the game with 20 points. He hit 7-14 field goals, but didn't have his usual good assist to turnover game compared to most games this season. He had just three assists to seven turnovers.
Lucas Hargrove scored 13 points and added six rebounds for the Tigers.
Junior guard Tay Waller struggled with his shooting. He was just 1-7 from the field, but scored 12 points thanks to a 9-9 performance at the free throw line.
Korvotney Barber grabs a rebound vs. the Lions.
While Barber said the Tigers struggled at the foul line, Lebo disagreed. "We shot well from the foul line and they didn't," the coach said. "That was really the big difference in the game because they had one more field goal than we did.
"We got to the line close to 40 times and typically if you get to the line that many times you have got a good chance to win if you shoot the ball average from the foul line."
The Tigers started slowly leading 5-4 at the 15:32 mark, a big contrast to Monday's game when they put up a large number of points in the opening minutes vs. Alabama A&M. They would get a lot more sluggish before snapping out of their offensive funk later in the half.
The Lions outscored Auburn 19-6 to take a 23-11 lead at the 9:10 mark as sophomore forward Robert Tibbs got hot shooting the ball. However, after that the Tigers had a run of their own.
With Reed sparking the Tigers, Auburn pulled ahead at the 6:57 mark as Waller hit a pair of free throws after a technical foul was called on the Southeastern Louisiana bench.
The Tigers led by as many as eight points prior to halftime before taking a 39-34 lead into the locker room.
In the second half, the Lions made another run, scoring nine points in a minute and four seconds to take a 46-43 leads. However, a three-pointer by Hargrove tied the game and Reed's layup at the 16:33 mark put the Tigers ahead for good.
The Tigers bumped the lead to 10 points with 3:44 left on two foul shots by Waller and were able to make foul shots as the Lions intentionally fouled trying to come back.
The Tigers return to action Saturday at 5 p.m. vs. Tulane as part of a doubleheader with the 14-0 women's team which plays at 2 p.m. vs. Stephen F. Austin.
Rasheem Barrett throws a pass on Wednesday night.
Game Notes: Rasheem Barrett, who missed the Alabama A&M game on Monday due to a hamstring problem, saw extensive action vs. the Lions. Barrett was 3-8 from the field and scored seven points with one rebound in 21 minutes...Lebo's team has had success with its full-court press and trap defense in recent games. Asked if that is something the Tigers will be able to rely on in SEC play, Lebo said, "I don't know. We will find out here soon. It has gotten us going at times when we get a little sluggish. It gets us moving. When we do that we play a little smaller. It is hard to play the two big guys (Johnnie Lett and Brendon Knox) in together when we do that. Our guards are quick and we have some depth back there. That is an area we will continue try to develop and use when we need to....It has helped us at times in games where we we have been down double figures and all of the sudden we are back up six or eight--big swings."...Auburn won the rebounding battle 41-38 and had a dozen steals while the Lions had eight steals...Auburn held the Lions to 15 points below their scoring average.