Coach Cliff Ellis watched his Tigers win their final preconference contest 90-65 on Thursday vs. North Texas State. Next on the schedule is a Wednesday night home game against the Vanderbilt Commodores, who will come to Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum with a 7-4 record after playing a tough preconference schedule.
Despite the 25-point win over the Mean Green, Ellis was not nearly as happy with his team's overall play as he was a game earlier when the Tigers whipped Southern Mississippi 92-46. "Offensively, we took some shots we didn't need to early," Ellis says
"Defensively, in the first half our press got to them then they started attacking it. They played a hard-nose game. That Chris Davis can play. He had a lot of accolades coming in and certainly deserved them. He is a great player and made a lot of great plays." Davis, a six-foot-five guard, fouled out with 25 points, seven rebounds and four assists as Auburn used a variety of different players to try to keep him under control.
"I thought our team did the things necessary to win," Ellis says. "We got the rebounding advantage and kept the turnovers down. Defensively, we can play better. I think we can rebound better and we can play defensive better." Auburn took a 41-33 edge on the boards and continued its recent trend of keeping turnovers to a minimum with just nine for the game. Point guard Lewis Monroe played 30 strong minutes and had just one turnover to go with a career-best eight assists plus 10 points. Backup point guard Chris Lollar played eight minutes with two assists and no turnovers.
Turnovers were a big problem in the team's two losses. The last setback was a 72-54 loss to a Western Michigan on Dec. 17th. Since then the Tigers won three games in Puerto Rico and two at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.
Senior Marquis Daniels continues to play well as he scored 17 points vs. the Mean Green while sophomore Marco Killingsworth had his third double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Junior Kyle Davis came close to a double-double with 14 points and nine rebounds.
Ellis says the focus is now on getting ready for the long Southeastern Conference season that starts this week. "I think we are playing the best we have played in three years," the coach says. "I think a lot of that has to do with experience--knowing what to do and what to expect. I think we are going to make a good run. It starts on Wednesday.
"I want our team to keep focused, stay loose, stay aggressive, just play with energy and go out and execute and it will all take care of itself," Ellis adds. "It is a 16-game affair. You have just got to come out and play every night. If you do the right things, it is all going to turn out. You are going to have some upsets and things happen here and there, but in a 16-game race it all works out and you get what you deserve."
"Just keep doing what we will be doing and it will be all right. We would like for Brandon (sophomore forward Brandon Robinson) to be in the lineup. It is just unfortunate he has not been able to get some non-conference play in, but that is not my call." Ellis says he is hopeful that the 6-8 Robinson, a Freshman All-SEC pick last season, will be cleared to play vs. the Commodores on Wednesday.
Vanderbilt comes to Auburn with some momentum, too, following an impressive 70-53 homecourt victory over College of Charleston in its last outing. College of Charleston is a team that was ranked in the Top 25 earlier this season. Two of Vandy's losses have been to ranked teams--UConn and Indiana.
Tipoff time for the Tigers vs. Vandy game is 7 p.m. CST on Wednesday.