Hargrove Hurting and Hoping

Senior Lucas Hargrove talks about his final college game and his coach, Jeff Lebo.

Nashville, Tenn.-Lucas Hargrove defended his coach amid the emotions of losing the final game of his collegiate basketball career.

On Thursday night at the Bridgestone Arena in the opening round of the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament, Hargrove just missed a double-double as he scored 11 points and led all rebounders in the contest with nine, but it wasn't enough. The scoreboard read Florida 78, Auburn 69.

That sent the Tigers home with a losing record at 15-17, a big disappointment after winning 24 games the previous season.

Because of the team's struggles, there has been plenty of discussion among fans about whether or not Jeff Lebo is the right man to lead the Tigers into the new Auburn Arena that is scheduled to open next season.

"I really haven't heard too much about it," Hargrove said when asked if he had heard that Lebo's job could be in jeopardy. "In my opinion he is a great coach."

Asked if Lebo should return for his seventh season as coach of the Tigers, Hargrove answered. "Definitely. I think he should get many more years.

"Last season, we had a great season," Hargrove added. "Truth is this season didn't quite turn out like we wanted it to be. We lost a lot of seniors last year. This year the seniors stepped up the best we could."

Asked about the subject after the loss to Florida, Lebo repeated what he said a day earlier about getting together with Athletic Director Jay Jacobs to discuss the future.

"We will meet like we always do at the end (of the season) like most head coaches and ADs meet," Lebo said. "We will have our discussion. That will be private. It will happen at some point here soon, I'm sure."

Asked to comment on his six years as coach of the Tigers, Lebo answered, "I mean we just gone done with the game so I haven't really thought about the body of work after this game. Probably not the best time to ask that question."

Lucas Hargrove

Hargrove wasn't shy about discussing the issue. "I think he is a great coach and going into the new arena he should definitely have a chance," the senior forward said.

Commenting on why he thinks Lebo is the right man for the job, Hargrove said, "He finds the strong points of the team and he is able to bring that to the utmost extent. He is very good at hiding the weaknesses and finding the strong points."

Hargrove said it will be tough to not wear his Auburn uniform again.

"The best way I could put it was that I saw Korvotney Barber after our last loss and I saw the look in his eye," Hargrove recalled. "I?was like, ‘I can't imagine how that feels.' Now I can because it is all over now and it hurts more than any amount of words can describe."

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