The coach's nerves didn't go away as his Tigers took the court for Senior Night and the last game in the 42-year history of the arena. "We are representing a lot of great basketball players and coaches who have been part of the history of the coliseum and I feel a lot of pressure to win this game," the coach said.
Contributing to Lebo's uneasy feeling about the game was that his starting point guard, DeWayne Reed, had not practiced all week as the Tigers put in new offensive sets to play the Bulldogs, who feature Jarvis Varnado, the all-time leading shot blocker in NCAA basketball history.
Plus, with Mississippi State battling to secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament, Lebo expected to face a highly motivated opponent and that was the case on Wednesday night.
However, when the final whistle blew, Auburn prevailed 89-80 and was able to have a happy postgame ceremony remembering highlights of the arena that opened in January of 1969 with a 90-71 SEC basketball win vs. LSU.
The arena is shown during the final game.
"It's big," Lebo said of his team's win. "I was dreading this game and I was sick to my stomach for most of the game.
"I have been involved with a lot of games and the anticipation of this one made me want to win this one even more. We had six seniors that you want to honor and send this place out the right way.
"In 42 years there have been so many memories in this place," Lebo added. "A lot of people have spent a lot more time coming into this place than I have in my six years. It has a lot of meaning to people in this area."
Tay Waller shoots for the Tigers.
Senior guard Tay Waller, who led the Tigers in scoring with 22 points, said the victory over Mississippi State team was special for him personally and the other seniors. "It also felt great to get a win and make all of the fans happy so they could enjoy the final game in the coliseum," he said.
Waller, one of the best long-range shooters in Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum history, received praise for his shooting from one of the top players in Auburn history, Wesley Person, who attended the game on Wednesday night.
Wesley Person enjoyed the Auburn victory.
"I wouldn't have missed it for anything," said the former Tiger star, whose retired jersey hangs from the rafters at the arena.
"It was fun to be here and see a part of history," Person said. "It was a special night and it was great for the guys that they were able to win the game. Just being a part of it means a lot to me. I didn't realize how special it was going to be to me until I got here. After I went out and cut a piece of net after the game and that felt great. This place has a special place in my heart."