Lebo Likes Tigers' Toughness in Win Over Bama

Auburn men's basketball coach Jeff Lebo discusses Auburn's SEC victory over Alabama.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn coach Jeff Lebo said going into Saturday's Auburn vs. Alabama rivalry game that his basketball team needed something good to happen to win a close game down the stretch.

On Saturday at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum, the last time the rivalry will be played at that venue, enough good things happened in the closing minutes to Lebo's team to allow the Tigers to win 58-57.

Asked about the importance of the victory, Lebo said, "I try to tell my kids that we have lost to good teams and played with Top 20 teams for 35 minutes. We just have to be able to make some better decisions and better plays, and be tougher both physically and mentally. They did that. It was huge. It's the Auburn-Alabama game and that brings a little extra to the table."

For Lebo it was the fourth consecutive time his Tigers have defeated his team's archrival and it improved his personal record as Auburn's head coach to 6-5 vs. the Tide with AU's sixth victory in the last seven matchups.

The previous wins came against former Tide coach Mark Gottfried. On Saturday the new Tide head coach, Anthony Grant, had little to say about losing the game in his first chance to coach against the Tigers. Commenting on the subject, all Grant would say was two words--"tough loss."

Lebo said that his Tigers faced a different style of play than they had seen in recent matchups against the Tide.

"Defensively, they are utilizing their quickness very well," he said. "Some of the teams in the past have been bigger all over, but they are using their personnel very well and they are doing a great job defending the perimeter. We hit three three-pointers and I think that is just nine three-pointers in the past four games against them. That's unbelievable."

Jeff Lebo shows his displeasure with a play on Saturday vs. Alabama.

Lebo said the Tigers expected a low scoring game and got one on Saturday with his team matching the Tide's defensive intensity.

"They are hard to score on," he said. "You look at their numbers in league play and they don't give up many threes. They have got some athleticism and quickness in the backcourt.

Guards Frankie Sullivan (left) and DeWayne Reed (right) celebrate after Reed's steal in the closing seconds set up the winning free throw by Lucas Hargrove.

"We didn't handle the pressure great by any stretch of the imagination," he added. "(Dewayne) Reed struggled, especially in the first half. I thought Josh (Wallace) did a nice for us in his time out there. Tay (Waller) was very good against a faster defense, which we hadn't seen in a while. He made some big plays and big steals."

Waller led the Tigers in scoring with 20 points and added four of his team's 11 steals.

"We found a way to gut it out, get some stops and make some plays and win the game," Lebo said. "We found ways to lose games in the last five or six minutes of the game so it's nice for the kids to find a way to win."

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