Lebo: Auburn's Focus Is On Getting Better

Comments from Jeff Lebo, Korvotney Barber and Frankie Sullivan are featured as the Tigers prepare for their regular season finale and trying to play their way into the NCAA Tournament.

Auburn, Ala.--Jeff Lebo isn't sure what it will take for his Auburn Tigers to earn an NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament bid short of winning the SEC Tournament in Tampa next week, but he is certain he likes the way his Tigers are closing the regular season.

Auburn has won seven of its last eight games and in the only loss during that stretch the Tigers played well in even though they lost at LSU in a game in doubt until the final minute.

"I don't know," Lebo says when asked about his team's chances for earning a spot in the NCAA Tournament. "We can't control what other people think. We have LSU at home next. That would be big, obviously, for us.

"The only thing we can do is try to keep playing well and keep getting better," the Auburn coach adds. "I never talk to my team about winning and losing. I talk to them about getting better."

Auburn will take on visiting LSU in the regular season finale at 3 p.m. on Saturday. It will be Senior Day for Korvotney Barber, Rasheem Barrett and Quantez Robertson, three Tigers who came through in clutch on Tuesday night in their team's exciting 77-73 comeback victory on the road in Tuscaloosa vs. Alabama.

It was Auburn's fourth road game in its last five outings. Lebo says the final six games of the season, with the four road tests and two games vs. the SEC's top team, LSU, have made his Tigers have to push hard to be successful.

"I thought we were a little mentally and physically fatigued really the last couple days of practice," the coach notes. "This extra day off before LSU and the day off, I think, for the tournament will be big for the kids."

With Auburn winning on Tuesday night, instead of the normal Wednesday game, that gives the Tigers an extra day to prepare for LSU. With the victory over Alabama, the Tigers improved to 20-10 overall and 9-6 in the league, which clinches the number two seed from the SEC West for the league tournament scheduled March 12-15 in Tampa, Fla.

As the two seed that means the Tigers have a first round bye. Lebo notes it is extremely tough to win a conference tournament by playing four days in a row although Georgia managed to pull off the feat last year in Atlanta. Auburn's path to the tournament title has been shortened by a game if the Tigers can find a way to keep winning once they get to Tampa.

With the victory over Alabama, the Tigers have now won five of their last six games against the Tide. Lebo notes that it is always satisfying to beat the in-state rival, but says that was only one of the reasons it was an important win.

"We had a lot riding on this game obviously," he points out, noting that earning the team's 20th win and securing a winning record in the league are important. "If you look back at Auburn tradition there in SEC winning seasons there are not very many there in the last 25 years so this is big for our kids," he says. "And, the way they did it, made it even more exciting coming from behind."

Francis Aihe

Auburn Basketball Notes: Freshman Frankie Sullivan admitted he had "butterflies" in the first half against Alabama because the game meant so much to him with a large group of family and friends in attendance in Tuscaloosa. The second half he played much better and finished the night with eight points, two assists, two steals, three rebounds and just one turnover in 23 minutes of action. "My teammates and coaches told me to just slow down my game and let it come to me," Sullivan says....Korvotney Barber, who scored 13 points and pulled down 17 rebounds, got into early foul trouble, but finished the game with three fouls. "I am a senior now," he says. "I play smart now." Barber adds, "I played with my feet more and not with my hands and stayed on the ground."...With Barber, Lucas Hargrove and Brendon Knox all getting into early foul trouble, Francis Aihe was in for four minutes vs. Alabama after playing just two minutes for the entire SEC season. "Francis has been good in practice," says Lebo. "He gave us some good minutes out there. I didn't have a lot of options with Johnnie Lett being hurt." Lett is recovering from an ankle injury and Lebo is hoping to get him back in action by the SEC Tournament.

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