Lebo's Tigers Face First Road Test vs. Bears

Jeff Lebo's Auburn Tigers will look to improve their record to 2-0 as they travel to play Missouri State.

Auburn, Ala.--Jeff Lebo's Tigers begin a stretch of four consecutive games away from home as they take on the Missouri State Bears on Monday night as Auburn looks to improve its record to 2-0.

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. CST from the 11,000-seat JQH Arena in Springfield, Mo. The game will be the regular season opener for the Bears, who won a pair of exhibition games by scores of 86-48 over Missouri-St. Louis and 79-52 vs. Henderson State.

The Tigers opened with a 69-65 home win over Niagara on Friday night as senior point guard DeWayne Reed scored a career-high 24 points and led a frantic comeback in the final 90 seconds to allow his team to overcome a seven-point deficit.

Reed scored eight consecutive points for the Tigers including the game-winning play with 12.5 seconds left when he scored on a fastbreak basket and added a free throw when he was fouled on the play. The Tigers, who struggled with their foul shooting last year, made 25-30 vs. Niagara.

Missouri State returns two starters from a team that finished 11-20 last year and was 3-15 in the Missouri Valley Conference. "The one thing with Missouri State is that they have a lot of new faces," Lebo says. "They have seven new players this year. We are their first game so we don't have a lot of information on them."

Missouri State's leading returning scorer is 6-6, 230 sophomore forward Kyle Weems, who averaged 10.2 points and 4.9 assists last season. The other returning starter, 6-9, 260 center Will Creekmore, averaged 7.7 points and 5.7 rebounds. Cardell McFarland, a 6-0, 170 sophomore guard, averaged 6.9 points per game last season.

"Caleb Patterson is a transfer from Colorado who is a seven-footer and then Adam Leonard, who is from Eastern Kentucky, can really, really shot the basketball," Lebo says. "He made 175 three-pointers in two years at Eastern Kentucky."

The Tigers and Bears played last year with Auburn winning 75-60. That was the first meeting between the two colleges in men's basketball.

Commenting on the rematch, Lebo says, "Anytime you go on the road anything can happen," he says. "We are going into a hostile environment. They have a new (second year) arena . It will be full."

Coach Jeff Lebo

Auburn is expected to start the same lineup it used in the opener with three guards. In addition to point guard Reed, sophomore Frankie Sullivan and freshman Earnest Ross are expected to start along with senior forward Lucas Hargrove and senior center Brendon Knox. Senior guard Tay Waller, who missed the opener with a bruised quad muscle, will not play in the Missouri State game. The Tigers hope to have him available on Friday for their game vs. Central Florida.

Sullivan scored 10 points for the Tigers while 6-5 freshman guard Andre Malone came off the bench to add eight points in the victory over Niagara. Ross, another 6-5 guard, scored six points and became the first freshman to start a season opener since the 2005-2006 season when Quantez Robertson, Josh Dollard and Joey Cameron did it.

Lebo says the Tigers need more production from Hargrove, who scored five points and added four rebounds in the opener. The other senior starter, Knox, finished with seven points and five rebounds vs. Niagara.

The Tigers have a 5-2 all-time record vs. teams in the Missouri Valley Conference heading into Monday night's game.

Following their trip to Springfield the Tigers will return to campus to begin preparations for three games in Daytona Beach, Fla. On Friday they will take on Central Florida in the Glenn Wilkes Classic. On Saturday they will face IUPUI and on Sunday the Tigers will take on North Carolina State.

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