Tigers Hoping To Rebound With A Win Over Ole Miss

For the first time in over a month the Tigers find themselves out of first place in the Western Division of the SEC.

Auburn, Ala.--Hoping to end a rough stretch with five losses in the past seven games, the Auburn basketball Tigers (17-7, 6-5) travel to Oxford, Miss. to face the Ole Miss Rebels (12-10, 3-8) hoping to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive. Ole Miss has lost six straight games heading into the 4 p.m. contest on Saturday and will be a team out for blood when the Tigers walk into Tad Smith Coliseum.

The Rebels boast one of the top trios in the league in forwards Justin Reed and Aaron Harper and guard David Sanders. A dual-threat player who can play both inside and outside, Reed averages 14.6 points and 5.9 rebounds per contest. He will be a tough match-up for forward Marco Killingsworth because of his versatility. Harper can be the most dangerous shooter in the league when hot and that was the case early in the season. He has cooled of late but still averages 13.4 points and 4.3 rebounds and is fifth in the SEC at 43 percent from behind the three-point arc. Sanders is currently averaging 10 points per game and 3.9 rebounds and is coming off a 16-point performance against Mississippi State last Saturday in the Rebels' last game.

Auburn is looking for the offense to pick up the slack after struggling in back-to-back losses to Alabama and Mississippi State. In both games the Tigers failed to score over 25 points and got behind too far to rebound for a win. That must change this week, as the Rebels are a tough team at home despite their recent troubles. The game will likely come down to how well Auburn's guards shoot the ball, something that has been non-existent in the past few games. Wednesday night, taking leading scorer Marquis Daniels out of the equation, Auburn's outside players scored just 11 points. If that happens again it will be a long trip home for the Tigers.

Daniels has been one of the continued lone bright spots for Auburn this season. Averaging 18.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game, the senior set the all-time steals record for Auburn in Wednesday night's game. His play has been stellar all season and in your biggest game you expect your biggest player to come through. This is the game for the Tigers. After falling apart at home against the Bulldogs Wednesday night, this is perhaps the best chance, besides a late Arkansas game at home, for the Tigers to come away with a win.

"I've seen our team confident but I think our confidence right now is gone," Auburn Coach Cliff Ellis said. "I think our challenge right now is to challenge our seniors to help get through this. We're so dependent on so many young players who are going through this for the first time for us to be successful we're going to have to make that stride."

Despite his lack of shots in the paint because of Auburn's struggles outside the arc, Killingsworth has been a constant contributor this season. The only other player in double figures Wednesday in addition to Daniels with 11 points, he only took seven shots on the night, something that has to change for the Tigers to get out a funk. He is averaging 14.1 points and 6.8 rebounds per contest and is shooting a SEC-best 58 percent from the field this season.

Auburn's struggles can be traced to the shooting woes of guards Derrick Bird and Nathan Watson since a strong start in conference play by both. Since the Georgia game the two have combined to make just 15-of-50 shots from behind the arc, including a 4-for-23 stretch in the last two losses. If they're unable to find the range the Rebels will be able to focus their attention on Daniels and Killingsworth in the paint and stifle the Auburn offense.

"I think we can do a better job with our shot selection," Ellis said. "I think sometimes we may take on that challenge of trying to make something and then when it doesn't happen we get a little frustrated. Even though we missed some very, very good shots I thought that our shots at time, especially when we got behind, I thought when we cut the lead we would take a little bad shot here or there that throws us out of the mix."

The health of Brandon Robinson is a key for the Tigers this weekend as well. His ankle problem has kept him from being 100 percent in each of the last two losses and his energy has been missed greatly by Auburn not only on the backboards but also on the defensive end. If healthy he is a player that gives you a chance on every loose ball as well as every rebound coming off the glass, which is something Auburn didn't have in losses to Alabama and MSU.

The game can be seen on regional television with Fox Sports Net South carrying the game to the Southeast. The Tigers will return to action and continue a tough road trip when they travel to Baton Rouge Wednesday night to face the LSU Tigers at 7 p.m.


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