Hot Teams Matching Up in Auburn on Friday

Jeff Lebo says he knows and respects Auburn's NIT opponent, Tulsa, as well as its coach as the Golden Hurricane heads to Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn junior Lucas Hargrove says he expects a high-energy game on Friday night as Tulsa visits Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum for a second round National Invitation Tournament matchup with his Tigers.

"I feel like the game is more energized, more picked up, because people don't want to go home," Hargrove says. "A lot of teams have seniors on their team, just like us, and they know if they lose it is going to be their last game."

Hargrove and his senior teammates Korvotney Barber, Rasheem Barrett and Quantez Robertson advanced past UT-Martin on Wednesday in an high-energy 87-82 game to set up the contest with Tulsa out of Conference USA. Tipoff time is set for 7 p.m. CDT. Robertson sparked the Tigers with a career-high 19 points and junior guard DeWayne Reed scored a career-high 23.

Tulsa defeated visiting Northwestern 68-59 in a game also played on Wednesday night.

Tulsa, which is 25-10 overall, finished second in its conference behind Memphis with a 10-4 league mark. The Golden Hurricane is led by 7-0, 240 center Jerome Jordan. The junior from Kingston, Jamaica is averaging 14.1 points and 8.5 rebounds, both team highs.

Auburn comes into the contest with a 23-11 record. Reed leads the Tigers in scoring at 13.2 points per contest, just ahead of Barber's 13.0 points. Barber is the top rebounder at 9.8 per contest.

Korvotney Barber and his teammates will be trying to extend their season with another victory.

Both the Tigers and Tulsa are hot basketball teams. The Tigers have won 10 of their last 12 games. Tulsa has won eight of its last nine with its only loss to Memphis in its conference title game played on the homecourt of Memphis.

Auburn coach Jeff Lebo says he is impressed with Coach Doug Wojcik's Tulsa team. Lebo, a former player at North Carolina, knows former North Carolina assistant Wojcik very well.

"I have seen them play a couple of times actually during the season because my buddy is the coach there," Lebo says. "They are very good. They have a terrific inside player in Jordan. He is very good. He has a chance to play professionally, I think, when he is done.

"One thing they do is really defend," Lebo points out. "They are number one in the country in three-point percentage defense. You look at their numbers, not many people have scored a lot of points against them."

Opponents are hitting just 27.3 percent of their threes vs. Tulsa. Auburn made a season-high 14 threes in its win on Wednesday.

"They have big physical guards in the backcourt, they don't beat themselves and they are really tough defensively--strong," Lebo adds.

The Auburn coach points out that he and Wojcik regularly compare basketball notes and share ideas. "I bet you we talk during the season and call each other once or twice a week."

Lebo adds, "It's really odd having to play against your friends. It is hard actually. We can't really look down at each other during the game. He has done a terrific job."

Ben Uzoh, a 6-3, 195 junior guard, is averaging 14.0 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game for Tulsa. Ray Reese, a 6-5, 220 senior forward, is averaging 10.4 points and 3.9 rebounds per game.

The other starters are 6-4, 195 sophomore guard Justin Hurtt (9.4 points, 2.7 rebounds) and 6-6, 220 junior forward Bishop Wheatley (4.8 points, 3.9 rebounds).

Glen Andrews, a 6-2, 195 sophomore guard, is averaging 7.1 points in a reserve role. Steven Idlet, a 6-10, 240 freshman center, is scoring 3.9 points with 3.0 rebounds per contest.

Friday's game will be the fourth for the Tigers in an eight-day span. Hargrove says he doesn't think that will be a problem. "We grew up in the park playing ball all day, every day. It will just take us back to our roots."

Hargrove played 28 minutes vs. UT-Martin in a reserve role. He scored nine points that included a key three-point field goal late in the game to help put down a comeback attempt by the Skyhawks.

To be successful with limited time to prepare for Tulsa, Hargrove says, "We have to stick to our principles, which are defense and rebounding. We have been a pretty good defensive team all year and we rebound pretty good. If we can stick to those, and a couple shots fall, we should be all right."

Basketball Notes: Lebo says that his junior reserve center, Brendon Knox, will need to avoid fouls and play more minutes than he did in Wednesday's game because his size at six-foot-ten will be needed vs. Tulsa...Another Auburn big man, 6-8 forward Johnnie Lett, may be able to see limited action on Friday night. Lett hasn't played since January when he was lost with an ankle injury...The Tigers and Golden Hurricane have two common opponents. Auburn defeated Tulane 78-53 on Jan. 3rd in Auburn and knocked off Missouri State 75-60 in the regular season opener on Nov. 14th. Tulsa lost 76-75 at Tulane on Jan. 21 and edged Missouri State 70-67 on Dec. 10th...With a win on Friday night, the Tigers could tie the 1999-2000 team for the second most wins in school history at 24. The record is held by the 29-4 1998-99 squad...Tickets for the game are $15 for reserved seats, $10 for general admission and $5 for students and anyone 18 or under.


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