Defense Sparks AU's Victory Over High Point

Five Tigers scored in double figures as Jeff Lebo's team evened its record with a victory on Wednesday night.

Auburn, Ala.--Jeff Lebo said he was concerned about defending High Point's different style of play, but that wasn't a major problem as the Auburn Tigers cruised to a 75-54 basketball victory over the Panthers on Wednesday night at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

Thirteen Tigers played and 10 scored with senior Lucas Hargrove leading the way with a double-double. He finished the night with 17 points and 12 rebounds.

The Tigers placed five players in double figures in the scoring column with DeWayne Reed getting 13 points, Earnest Ross and Brendon Knox scored 12 apiece and Frankie Sullivan chipped in with 11 points.

However, it was defense that most impressed the head coach. High Point hit just 17-53 field goals for 32.1 percent and the Panthers were 5-18 on three-pointers.

"I thought the difference in the game was our defense," Lebo said. "Defensively, we were pretty good here tonight. I thought that little stretch where we went on the run was obviously the difference in the game. We got a chance to play a lot of different people tonight.

"I thought Brendon Knox did a good job for us offensively," Lebo said. "He got some easy buckets around the rim area. I thought Lucas was outstanding rebounding the ball."

Freshman Ross, who added three rebounds and a steal in his 20 minutes while making 3-5 field goals and 4-4 free throws, also won praise from the coach.

"He can shoot the basketball from three," Lebo said of Ross. "He is a good catch and shoot guy. He is pretty tough defensively. He can move his feet and guard multiple positions out there. I think that is the one thing where he has probably stepped ahead of some of the other freshmen because defensively he has done a pretty nice job for us."

Lebo said that Ross is still a work in progress, but added, "He is tough out there, too. He will stick his nose in there. He is not afraid to rebound the ball and do all of the little things that aren't as fashionable as scoring the ball."

Ross is filling in for starting senior guard Tay Waller, who hasn't played since the exhibition game. Lebo said that he hopes that Waller will be cleared to practice this coming weekend, but isn't sure when the injured senior will be ready for game action. The Tigers are also playing without freshman forward Kenny Gabriel, who is still recovering from surgery. He should be back in early December.

"I am feeling more comfortable out there," said Ross, who hit 2-3 treys from the wing. "That is something I have been working on practically all summer," he added. "I am still working on it and need to continue to improve. I was out there an hour before the game tonight working on that shot."

The Tigers did a good job of controlling High Point guard Nick Barbour, who came into the game averaging 25 points per contest. He was held to 14 points and hit just 5-17 field goals.

"This High Point team is different," Lebo said. "You have to play the dribble-drive. They're small. They were beating Wake Forest for most of the first half and gave them fits. I was worried about whether or not we could defend the ball tonight and keep them out of the paint area off the dribble. For the most part we did a good job on Barbour."

Lucas Hargrove

For the game the Tigers shot 46.9 percent from the field and hit 4-17 threes and 25-40 free throws. Frankie Sullivan was 4-4 at the free throw line and is 27-27 for the year, three shy of the Auburn record for consecutive free throw makes.

Auburn out-rebounded High Point 43-31 and had 15 turnovers, four less than the Panthers who fell to 2-2 for the season while Auburn evened its record at 3-3 as a Thanksgiving evening crowd of 3,971 watched the action.

After a slow start the Tigers turned the heat up defensively and offensively midway through the first half. Auburn trailed 13-12 at the 11:56 mark when Barbour nailed a three. However, from that point until halftime the Tigers outscored the Panthers 27-5 to take command of the game.

At the break the Tigers were shooting 52 percent while limiting High Point to six field goals in 27 attempts (22.2 percent). Hargrove and Knox had 10 points apiece at the break while Ross scored eight.

In the second half the Tigers substituted heavily. Rob Chubb, a 6-10 freshman center, saw his first significant action this season. He was in the game for eight minutes and scored four points and pulled down eight rebounds.

Josh Wallace played 14 minutes and scored two points with two assists, two rebounds and no turnovers at point guard.

The Tigers return to action on Tuesday at Alabama A&M. Tipoff time is 7:30 p.m. CST in Huntsville.

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