Balanced Attack Buries Mean Green

Auburn picked up its 11th basketball victory on Thursday night in its final preconference contest.

Auburn, Ala.--Five Tigers scored in double figures as Auburn earned a workman-like 90-65 basketball victory on Thursday night against the over-matched Mean Green of North Texas.

Marquis Daniels led the Tigers with 17 points, Derrick Bird added 16 and Kyle Davis contributed 14 points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots. Marco Killingsworth added 13 points and 11 rebounds while Lewis Monroe was impressive with 10 points, eight assists and just one turnover.

Killingsworth and guard Nathan Watson, who had been starters, both came off the bench. Coach Cliff Ellis said that was a minor team disciplinary matter. "It was a little lateness in practice," Ellis said. "It wasn't anything intentional and it is over with now."

Marquis Daniels hit five of nine field goals and 7-10 free throws for the Tigers.

Ellis said he liked the fact that the Tigers were plus 12 in turnovers for the game. AU forced 21 and committed just nine. "That has been the most pleasing part of our game since about three games ago," Ellis said. "We just started protecting the ball. From a turnover standpoint, there is no question we are doing that. I thought Lewis Monroe had his best game from both an offensive and defensive standpoint."

The coach was unhappy with the rebounding even though the Tigers took a 41-33 edge. He also wasn't pleased with Auburn's shot selection at times, particularly in the first half.

Davis, a 6-10 junior center, hit 7-12 field goals and contributed three steals to go with his nine rebounds and four blocks. Davis said that he was excited about getting back in the starting lineup, but added, "Whether you are starting or coming off the bench, you still have to go out there and give everything you have got."

North Texas got a strong performance from guard Chris Davis, who fouled out with 25 points and seven rebounds. "He is probably as good a player who has been in here this preseason," Ellis said. "He hits you from all directions--field goals, three points, rebounds. He just does a lot of things. He has the ability to play at another level, I can tell you that."

Former LSU assistant coach Johnny Jones, head coach of the Mean Green, said that Ellis has "another fine basketball team." Jones added, "We were trying to take away what we felt was their strength. They were leading the nation in field goal percentage and we wanted to shut down their inside game, but they knocked down some three-point shots and made us extend our defense."

The new starting lineup that featured four guards quickly put the Tigers into the lead. Davis opened at center while Troy Gaines, Daniels, Monroe and Bird got starts, too. A free throw by Daniels, a three-pointer by Bird and a basket by Davis put the Tigers up 6-0 two minutes into the game. Auburn stretched the margin to 15 points at the 13:20 mark on a basket by Killingsworth.

Backup point guard Chris Lollar brings the basketball up court vs. pressure as North Texas coach Johnny Jones watches in the background. Lollar contributed a pair of assists and a steal off the bench and had no turnovers.

The biggest lead in the half was 17. The Tigers pulled ahead 42-25 on a pair of free throws by Bird, but at the break the visitors cut the margin to 46-33.

"Overall, we did a pretty good job," Bird said. "Defensively, I think we picked it up a little bit in the second half. We are 11-2 now and that is pretty good momentum going in (to SEC play).

Davis agreed with Bird, noting, "Our record of 11-2 is a lot better than it was last year going into conference play."

In the first half, the Tigers shot 44.1 percent, eight points under their normal average. However, they had just four turnovers and allowed the Mean Green to hit just 41.4 percent from the field. Even with the small lineup in much of the half, Auburn outrebounded North Texas 20-17.

The Tigers built their lead to 21 points at the 15:51 mark on a fastbreak finger roll basket by Monroe. North Texas then scored eight straight points to cut the margin to 57-44 at the 12:28 mark.

Auburn then made a run of its own stretching the lead back to 19 points on a rebound basket by Davis with 9:36 to play. Another rebound basket by Davis at the 5:16 mark built the lead to 25 at 80-55. The Tigers coasted home from there.

"We are playing the best we have played in three years," Ellis said when asked for an overview of how his team is performing going into SEC play. "I think we are going to make a good run."

Auburn closes its non-conference schedule with the losses coming to Western Kentucky and Western Michigan. North Texas falls to 5-7.

The Tigers begin SEC play at home on Wednesday vs. Vanderbilt at 7 p.m.

Tiger Ticket Extra: Ellis said that Brandon Robinson should be ready to play for Auburn's next game. The veteran coach was obviously frustrated that the 6-8 sophomore forward was not cleared in time to play in Thursday night's game. "We would like for Brandon to be in the lineup," said Ellis, who added that he expected Robinson to play vs. North Texas. "Unfortunately, he has not, but that is not my call."...An All-SEC Freshman pick last year, he has not played a game this season for the Tigers due to questions concerning his eligibility. Robinson, who normally sits on the team bench, watched the game from the stands with his mother on Thursday night.

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