Tigers Look To Keep Streaks Alive Vs. Tide

Comments from Marquis Daniels, Cliff Ellis and Tide coach Mark Gottfried are featured on the Auburn vs. Alabama basketball game that will be played Saturday.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn has a series of basketball streaks on the line as the Tigers take on Alabama this Saturday at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

*The Tigers have won three straight conference games and join Kentucky and Florida from the SEC East as the only teams still undefeated in Southeastern Conference play.

*The Tigers have won eight straight games overall, going back to the start of the San Juan Shootout, the tournament in Puerto Rico where Auburn coach Cliff Ellis says this year's basketball team make a big step forward to give the Tigers momentum going into the start of league play.

*The Tigers have won six straight times vs. archrival Alabama in games at Beard-Eaves Coliseum, where a sellout crowd is expected for the 3 p.m. tipoff on Saturday.

Alabama is ranked ninth and 10th nationally coming into the contest, but is second in the SEC West behind the Tigers. The Tide is 2-1 in the league and 12-2 overall.

"Playing against anybody at home, whether it is Alabama or anybody, you have to take care of your home first, especially in the SEC," says senior Marquis Daniels. "It is very hard to come across with wins (on the road)."

Daniels and the Tigers will be playing their second SEC home game this season. They defeated Vandy 62-59 before winning back-to-back road games at Arkansas 52-37 and at South Carolina 67-60 on Wednesday night. Daniels had his conference career-high scoring game of 31 points vs. South Carolina.

"Marquis Daniels does a lot of things for us," Ellis says. "What a player he is. He is going to be one of the all-time best at Auburn."

Daniels is averaging 19.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game as a senior. "You are talking about a warrior," Ellis says of his senior, who played through a variety of injuries last season. "I have told the people around Auburn if you want to show appreciation to someone, Marquis Daniels comes from Orlando, Fla. He has battled all of his life. He is going to have his degree in three-and-a-half years. I am as proud of our academic achievement as I am anything. That is an area where we have been champions, and I am proud of that.

Marquis Daniels has been named SEC Good Works Player of the Work for his volunteer work with children.

"He has done it in three-and-a-half years and that's unbelievable," Ellis adds. "I have never seen that done. I couldn't have done it. The people ought to realize how special this young man is. When you see him, you need to let him know how proud you are of what he is doing with his life. That is what it is all about. He puts his heart and soul into it, and he is leading our ball club."

Ellis says that Daniels is playing like a senior. "Both he and Derrick Bird have been tremendous leaders. Marquis is certainly a great player. He has the ability to do a lot of things."

Daniels deflects the credit and says the reason for Auburn's good start is a balanced approach. "Nathan Watson hit a big shot for us (vs. South Carolina)," he says. "We have guys that can step up and hit shots for us. If the shots are there we are going to take them. We have confidence right now and nobody is afraid to take a big shot. That is what I like about this team."

Alabama coach Mark Gottfried, who is 3-7 all-time in matchups vs. Ellis and 3-6 vs. Ellis at Bama's coach, says he is impressed with Daniels. "With Auburn, you have a player over there in Marquis Daniels that when it is all said and done and five years from now and we look out there, he may be having the most success of any of our players in this conference at the next level in the NBA. He is that good.

"I've talked to a lot of NBA people, and they like him a lot. He is versatile. He is a tough matchup. He is a true small forward at the next level size-wise. I just think he is a great talent. Obviously, this year he is showing it. He had 38 in one game and had 31 at South Carolina and is getting them big baskets when they need him."

Gottfried's team is led by 6-8, 260 senior Erwin Dudley, who is averaging 14 points and 10.2 rebounds. Sophomore guard Maurice Williams is averaging 15.9 points and 4.7 assists.

Other starters for the Tide include 6-4, 205 junior forward Emmett Thomas (5.9 points, 2.1 rebounds), 6-9, 220 center Kenny Walker (12.2 points, 5.8 rebounds) and 6-2, 190 senior guard Terrance Meade (5.1 points 0.9 assists). The Tide has a deep and athletic team that was ranked No. 1 nationally for a week before falling 51-49 at Utah on Dec. 30th. The only other team to defeat the Tide was Vanderbilt, a 70-69 winner last Saturday in Nashville.

Alabama comes into Saturday's game following a 68-62 overtime victory over Mississippi State. "It is a very deep basketball team and they are off to a great start," says Ellis.

Daniels says he enjoys the Auburn vs. Alabama rivalry. "Once I played and got to get into one of those games, I was like, it was totally different atmosphere, the excitement, there was a lot of energy in the building even before the game even started."

Auburn, which finally got one vote for the AP Top 25 this week, was picked to finish last in the SEC. Daniels doesn't seem worried yet about a lack of national respect. "Actually, we want everybody to keep doubting us," he says. "It makes us play harder. We look at it as nobody is really respecting us. It is not going to be given to us. We have to go out and take it."

If the Tigers keep on winning, and beat a Top 10 team like the Tide, they are going to get some respect whether they want it or not.


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