Tigers Playing Three Games In Three Days

Coach Jeff Lebo discusses his team's road trip to Daytona Beach.

Auburn, Ala.--Jeff Lebo's Auburn Tigers will play three games in three days in Daytona Beach, Fla., beginning with a Friday matchup vs. the University of Central Florida.

The Tigers, 1-1, will be trying to bounce back from a disappointing road loss at Missouri State as they play UCF for the first time in basketball since defeating the Knights 77-42 in 1998.

Auburn's opponent enters Friday's 5 p.m. CST game in the Glenn Wilkes Classic at the Ocean Center will a 2-0 record after defeating UMass 84-67 and Howard 68-59.

"I know they are well-coached," Lebo says. "They are solid defensively. They have size inside and are a team that gets to the foul line a bunch."

Isaac Sosa, a 6-3, 180 guard from?Puerto Rico, is UCF's leading scorer at 20 points per game. Dave Diakite, a 6-6, 215 freshman foward, is averaging nine points and nine rebounds for Coach Kirk Speraw who has a 266-216 record in 17 seasons at the college in Orlando.

Other starters include 6-9, 230 junior forward A.J. Tyler (5.0 points, 2.0 rebounds), 5-9 sophomore guard A.J. Rompza (8.0 points, 5.0 assists) and 6-8 sophomore forward P.J. Gaynor (6.5 points, 3.5 rebounds).

"They are extremely well coached and are a very disciplined type of team," Lebo says of UCF. "They are a very solid defensively, a man-to-man type team. They are very similar to Missouri State."

The Tigers will play IUPUI on Saturday at 5 p.m. in Daytona Beach and will take on North Carolina State at 7:15 p.m. on Sunday. Lebo will not have sophomore forward Kenny Gabriel with him this weekend. Gabriel is expected to be out for several weeks after having hernia surgery.

Starting two guard Tay Waller, who has been sidelined for both regular season games with a quadriceps injury, may be able to play this weekend. Lebo notes that the senior has been missed. "He is our best shooter and one of our best defensive players and it forces one of our freshmen into the lineup," says Lebo, who started 6-5 6-5 freshman Earnest Ross in Waller's spot the first two games.

Tay Waller averaged 13.8 points per contest last season.

"The one thing that Tay provides for us when he is making shots, it seems to be contagious to the rest of the crew," Auburn's coach says. "We haven't shot the ball very well. We are 9-46 from three in our first two games. When we looked at the film, we had 14 open threes that we missed against Missouri State. He stretches the defense and opens up some things for us inside.

"Also, when you play Frankie Sullivan and him together, that's two very good shooters on the perimeter so he is a factor out there for us."

Senior point guard DeWayne Reed leads the Tigers in scoring at 18 points per game. Senior forward Lucas Hargrove is averaging 14.5 points. Senior Brendon Knox is the top rebounder at 5.5 per game and the 6-10 center is averaging 6.0 points per contest.

Sullivan is averaging 9.5 points and 4.5 rebounds. Although he struggled with his shooting vs. Missouri State, the sophomore has the green light to keep shooting threes and other shots. "We have to keep taking them," Lebo says. "I have the utmost confidence in Frankie Sullivan shooting the basketball. They were good looks. I take my chances with him any day shooting the ball from three.

"Against Missouri State we made 25 turnovers. Some of them were illegal screens that are a turnover. There were three plays where we had four-on-twos where we didn't convert that ended up as five point swings where we fouled on the other end and turn it over. The turnovers with our poor shooting on the road, you just can't overcome that. That is really, in a nutshell, what happened with us."

Lebo says with the Tigers playing three games in three days that he will be counting on his newcomers, other than Gabriel, to step up and play a significant number of minutes.

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