Lebo Wants Improved Defense for SEC Opener

Auburn, Ala.--With the SEC men's basketball opener set for Saturday at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum, Auburn coach Jeff Lebo says he is seeing signs of improvement on offense, but adds his Tigers need work on defense.

Tipoff is set for 12:47 p.m. as the 9-6 Tigers take on 9-5 South Carolina. The game will be televised regionally on the SEC Network.

Auburn comes into the contest with four straight wins. In three of those games the Tigers have scored 94 or more points, a change from early in the season when the team had issues scoring points.

"I think our shot selection has been better," Lebo says. "We have shot the ball better from three. I think one of the big factors so far is really getting Tay Waller back into the mix and back healthy, and back with his timing. He makes our perimeter shooting much better."

Tay Waller missed Auburn's first six games due to an injury.

Waller, a senior guard, is leading the Tigers in three-point field goal percentage at 40.3.

"I think our shot selection has improved," Lebo says. "We have gotten the ball inside and got some high percentage looks. We have not shot the ball early in possessions.

"It is amazing, when we have been more patient we have scored more," the coach points out. "That has kind of been the lesson for our kids because early in the possessions we would shoot it fast, shoot it quickly and not get as high a percentage look and not shoot the ball at a very high percentage.

"Then, when we are more patient and get a higher percentage look, those things typically go in better for us," Lebo adds. "If we make five or six passes it is amazing how much our shooting percentage goes up."

Saturday's game is also the first conference contest of the season for South Carolina, which comes into the matchup following an 88-58 victory over Longwood on Tuesday.

The Tigers and Gamecocks have two common opponents. Auburn defeated Alabama A&M 87-52 and South Carolina won 88-50 vs. the Bulldogs. Auburn defeated Georgia Southern 95-75 while South Carolina defeated the Eagles 90-66.

"Offensively, we have made some strides," Lebo says of the Tigers. "Defensively, I think we still have a ways to go. People have shot the ball very well against us in the last five games, especially behind the three-point line, so that has been an area of concern for us.

"We are very small when we put our best offensive team on the floor," the coach adds. "We don't have a very big presence on the perimeter to bother people shooting the ball." Lebo's best scoring lineup features 6-1 guards DeWayne Reed and Frankie Sullivan with 6-2 Waller along with 6-6 forward Lucas Hargrove and either 6-8 forward Johnnie Lett or 6-10 center Brendon Knox.

Reed leads the Tigers in scoring at 15.7 points per game and is also the leader in assists with 4.5 per contest.

Reed will be challenged by his matchup against South Carolina's star, 5-9 senior Devan Downey, who is averaging 18.5 points 3.9 assists per game.

Auburn leads the series vs. South Carolina 17-13, but the Gamecocks have won the last two matchups including a 68-56 victory last season in Columbia.

Gamecocks Preparing for Auburn

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