Tigers Traveling to Fayetteville After Break

A preview of Auburn's road trip to play the Arkansas Razorbacks is featured.

Auburn, Ala.--After having a break with no midweek game, the Auburn basketball team hits the road for a Saturday contest at Arkansas.

Tipoff is set for 12:47 p.m. from Bud Walton Arena and the game will be televised on the SEC Network.

The Tigers, who haven't played since edging Alabama 58-57 last Saturday, are 11-11 overall and 2-5 in the SEC. Arkansas is 11-11 also, but is 4-3 in the SEC.

The Razorbacks and Mississippi State Bulldogs share the lead in the SEC West. Auburn, which is in fifth place, is only two games out of first.

The Tigers have the same league record they had at this time last year when they got hot and finished the regular season with eight victories in their last nine games.

Coach Jeff Lebo says having a chance to win the division should be motivation for his team. "We will talk about that a little bit with our group," he says. "There is still a lot of basketball to be played."

The Tigers have nine games left before heading to Nashville for the SEC Tournament.

"We have played Kentucky, Tennessee and Vanderbilt," Lebo says. "A lot of teams haven't yet. I don't see a whole lot of difference in the West here night in and night out."

Lebo notes that the Razorbacks are playing their best basketball of the season. Arkansas will bring a three-game winning streak into Saturday's game with sophomore guard Courtney Fortson leading the way. He is averaging 19.8 points per game and six assists per contest.

Courtney Fortson dribbles the basketball for the Razorbacks.

"Him being added to the team the last eight games has changed the whole way they play," Lebo says, noting that Fortson looks like he is playing with "fresh" legs. "It has put a fourth scorer on the court."

Marshawn Powell, a 6-7, 220 freshman, is scoring 15.1 points per game while adding 6.9 rebounds for the Razorbacks.

Mike Washington, a 6-9, 239 senior center, is scoring 13.4 points per outing and 6.1 rebounds.

The other starter for Coach John Pelphrey is 6-3 junior guard Marcus Britt, who is averaging 3.7 points and 2.5 rebounds.

Auburn is going for its third straight victory in the series vs. Arkansas. Last year in Fayetteville, Auburn prevailed 73-51, which was the worst loss Arkansas has suffered in Bud Walton Arena.

If the Tigers are going to win on Saturday, they will likely need another good performance from senior guard Tay Waller. He is averaging 20.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.5 steals in the last two games.

Lebo says he likes what he is seeing from Waller, who was injured earlier in the season but his healthy now. The coach says he wants to see the guard drive to the basket more and that will give him more room to shoot three-point jumpers. "I still think he can do more of that," the coach says. "I would like to see him get to the foul line a little bit more.

"He got some on the break off steals or putting it down on the floor," Lebo says. "I still think he can do that in a halfcourt situation. Guys run at him and jump and to be able to utilize the pump fake and get by some guys, I still think that he can do that. I still think he has room for improvement there."

DeWayne Reed leads Auburn in scoring at 16.1 points per game. His steal and pass to Lucas Hargrove in the closing seconds set up the winning free throw in Auburn's victory over Alabama. Prior to that play the senior point guard had struggled and was having his worst game of the season.

"That's basketball," Lebo said of Reed's big play. "The second half he was much better than the first. He didn't have one of his better games. Still, yet, you can find different ways to help your team win a game. That one was by his defense.

"Guys are laughing at it now, but they thought I was going to go bananas because he went for the steal," Lebo says. "Usually he goes for the steal and gets blown by, and we play five on four on the other end. Luckily, that didn't happen. We could be talking differently, and we probably would be talking differently here had he not got it. He didn't do it all game, and you are worried and the last thing you are thinking about is somebody really going to try to make a steal on the ball. Luckily for everybody he did it and got it done."

Hargrove and Frankie Sullivan are averaging 13.2 points per game for Auburn. Hargrove, who is Auburn's top rebounder at 7.1 per game, says he feels like he is playing well even though he is not averaging a double-double, which was his preseason goal.


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