Lebo Looking for Good Defense Vs. Gators

Comments from Auburn and Florida's basketball coaches are featured as the Gators visit Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

Auburn, Ala.--Jeff Lebo says his Auburn Tigers will need to come through with a strong defensive performance on Wednesday night to even their SEC record at 1-1 in the conference home opener vs. Florida.

"The one thing when you play them lately is their ability to shoot the basketball from a variety of different spots," the Auburn coach says. "They have got terrific skilled players. They can pass, they execute."

The Gators, who come into the game 1-0 in the league and 14-2 overall, are lead by 6-6, 194 sophomore guard Nick Calathes, who is putting up All-SEC type of numbers with 17.1 points, 6.8 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game.

Florida is averaging 79.5 points per game and only allowing 64.1 per contest. Auburn, which is 10-5 overall and 0-1 in the conference, is scoring 71.2 points per contest and giving up 60.3 per game, which is the second best scoring defense in the SEC. During its last eight games, which includes seven victories, Auburn has allowed opponents just 55.1 points per game.

The Gators are shooting 49.8 percent from the field for the season compared to 43.7 for the Tigers. However, Florida head coach Billy Donovan says he isn't satisfied with that phase of his team's play.

"You would always like to see the consistency get better," he says of the Gators, who start three sophomores, a junior and a senior. "We have had some great shooting games and some awful shooting games. That is what you are always looking for in a young team, player development and growth."

Tipoff is set for shortly after 7 p.m. CST and the game will be televised regionally on Raycom Sports and will also be carried by ESPN360.

On Tuesday the Tigers received good news that junior forward Johnnie Lett had been cleared to play after being held out of the SEC opening loss at South Carolina on Saturday due to an academic issue. He should be ready for action the rest of the season.

Without the 6-8 Lett, Lebo was planning to go with a smaller lineup. The juco transfer has been a positive factor defensively and on the boards, the coach notes.

Johnnie Lett

An area for concern for the Gators will be on the boards after being out-rebounded 46-22 on Saturday despite winning at home vs. Ole Miss.

"It is always bad when you get out-rebounded by 24," Donovan says. "It is no question a challenge for our frontcourt because they are not physically imposing. We have some guys like Allan Chaney, Kenny Kadji and Eloy Vargas that could help in that department, but are deficient and behind in some other areas.

"Sometimes our players are very much consumed with trying to block out and in trying to do so physically, when the ball comes off the rim, a lot of times we are not a great team at reacting to the ball. Those are plays that we have to get better in where a shot is getting ready to go up and you see our guys trying to block out and are under contact, and when the ball comes off and they are tangled up.

"That is one area that we have to try to get better in," he notes. "The other area is what I call rotational blockouts. Our guards sometimes on the perimeter get hammered way too much off the dribble and what happens is the ball enters the paint and we get caught with a big man providing help and the shot goes up and our guards have got to do a better job in rotating down to rebounders that are left open in the middle lane or on the weakside. Our guards contribute to being out-rebounded by 24 as much as our frontcourt did.

"Nick Calathes ended up having seven rebounds in the (Ole Miss) game and that is great for a point guard, but in retrospect he probably should have had 12 to 15," Donovan says. "He needs to get down inside and rotationally block out. A problem is that our guys don't quite see the play developing in the middle of the play. They react after the play, and that is something they need to get better in."

Auburn leads the series 86-67 vs. the Gators, but Florida has a nine-game winning streak vs. the Tigers.

The Tigers will also play at home on Saturday with a 1 p.m. contest vs. Alabama.


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