Tigers Feed Off Waller's Sharp Shooting

Auburn, Ala.—A strong start and timely three-point shooting by junior guard Tay Waller proved to be a difference maker in Auburn's 85-71 victory over Alabama on Saturday.

The Tigers got off to a torrid start shooting the ball, building a 23-6 lead less than five minutes into the game capped off by Waller's third three-point make.

"The start was we had was key," head coach Jeff Lebo says. "We shot the ball obviously much better and that makes a difference.

"When you make shots it's contagious," he continues. "When you miss them it's the same way. If you ask me what the difference is from one night to another, I don't know. I wish I knew. I thought the kids got off to a good start and we didn't have any stretches where we missed a lot in a row. We had a couple of stretches tonight finally offensively where we made a couple in a row. When you can score it's like giving energy tablets on the other end and we did a good job of putting the ball in the bucket."

Transferring from Okaloosa-Walton Junior College prior to the season, Waller hit 15 threes on 34 attempts in the first three games of the year, a solid 44.1 percent. However, he cooled down in the month of December and his percentage dropped to as low as 33.9, hitting 4-18 in conference games against South Carolina and Florida and 6-29 in the previous four games overall.

"It's been a while since I've had a good game and tonight felt good," Waller notes. "I put up a lot of shots on the off day and that gave me my confidence back. My teammates kept giving me the ball so I kept shooting."

Waller was the Tigers' leading scorer against rival Alabama. He had 22 points despite taking just 10 shots from the field. Waller capitalized on nearly every open look, sinking 6-8 three point attempts, 7-10 overall from the field and making both foul shots.

Even though the Crimson Tide had fallen behind by 17 points before they knew what hit them, they battled back and cut it to seven by halftime and five early in the second half. However, the hot shooting was indeed contagious for the Tigers. DeWayne Reed and Rasheem Barrett both hit from long range and the Tigers' lead quickly grew to 22 points.

"I think everybody put up extra shots after practice or whatever," Waller states. "That gave the whole team confidence. Once shots start falling everyone gets into the flow of the offense, and everybody starts shooting threes then."

With Alabama again try to cut in and make one last run at getting back in the game, Waller came off the bench, hit another pair of threes and a 75-54 advantage was all Auburn needed to coast to victory.

Waller wasn't the only Tiger guard with an outstanding offensive game. Point guard DeWayne Reed scored 19 points on 6-11 shooting.

"They were trying to deny me the ball," Waller explains. "When they deny me the ball it gives Reed an open lane to the goal. They've got to make a choice."

Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried said at the post game press conference that Waller's sharp-shooting throughout the game, and especially early was key.

"It's huge, for any team," Gottfried explains. "You go back to the Georgia Tech game we had a few weeks ago. You've got to be careful sometimes in sports just like that game. We played really well and shot it really well. They probably got on the bus feeling everything is their not-doings. We're over there thinking it's all us. Like today, I'm thinking it was our inability to get to him, Waller. On the other hand, he jumped up there a couple of times with an elbow down his throat and he drilled it. He made some tough shots, too.

"They go 10-20 from the three," he adds. "I think they made six or so in the first half. Their ability to make the shots, which they've struggled to be real honest. They haven't made a lot of shots, and they've also missed a lot of open shots in games. Today it was a different story. You've got to give them credit. They stepped up there and did it."

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