Commodores Face Auburn in SEC Tourney

The regular season ended in disappointing fashion for Vanderbilt, as the Commodores lost in overtime to a struggling Alabama team. The 'Dores (25-6, 10-6) finished third in the SEC East, which means their quest for the SEC Tournament title begins Thursday. They'll face the Auburn Tigers, the West division's sixth seed, in Atlanta for a chance to play Arkansas on Friday. Scouting report inside...

Auburn At A Glance

Jeff Lebo's squad has sorely missed Korvotney Barber, the 6-7 junior forward who hasn't played since breaking his hand in December.  Since a three-game winning streak in January, the Tigers (14-15, 4-12) have suffered a free fall.  Auburn is 2-10 in its last 12 games, including three losses of 19 or more points.  Allowing 77.1 points per game in conference play, the Tigers are the SEC's worst defensive team.  A lack of size in the post and a short bench have hurt them on both ends, leading to an average SEC scoring margin of -5.7 points, ranking them 11th in the league.  With an NCAA at-large bid out of reach, Auburn will try to spark an SEC Tournament run on Thursday against the Commodores.

Last Meeting

Auburn and Vanderbilt last met on February 2 in Nashville.  The Tigers were able to keep it close in Memorial thanks to Frank Tolbert's 32-point effort off the bench.  In the end, though, the Commodores' balanced attack proved too much for the visitors, and Vanderbilt captured a 77-71 victory.

Four Commodore starters scored in double figures against the Tigers.  A.J. Ogilvy led the way, scoring 19 points on 6-of-9 shooting and 7-of-8 from the charity stripe.  The big Aussie, a Second Team All-SEC and All-Freshman selection, also led the ‘Dores with nine rebounds.  SEC Player of the Year Shan Foster added 16 points for the home team, while Alex Gordon and Jermaine Beal scored 17 and 13, respectively.  Overall, the Commodores shot 48.2 percent from the floor and knocked down 10-of-25 from three-point range.

Aside from Tolbert, who tormented every defender Kevin Stallings threw at him, Vanderbilt did a good job defending a fairly balanced Auburn offense.  The ‘Dores held the Tigers to 37.1 percent shooting; excluding Tolbert's 10-of-19, Auburn converted on just 13 of its 43 field goal attempts.  In Atlanta, the Commodores need to tighten up its perimeter defense, as the shots that the Tigers had the most success with were three-pointers.  Auburn out-shot Vanderbilt from beyond the arc, knocking down 11-of-27 from long range.

Starting Lineup

Frank Tolbert – Senior, 6-4, 210 lbs. – Tolbert is Auburn's co-leader in scoring in conference play, tossing in 16.0 points per game against SEC opponents.  He's scored in double figures in 14 of 16 league games, including four games of 20+ points.  The senior is one of several Tigers who play bigger than his height would suggest.  Tolbert is shooting 49.3 percent from inside the arc, where his mid-range game and strength in the post allow him to score in a variety of ways.  As he showed in Memorial, he can also step out and hit the trey.  His 5.4 rebounds in conference play are good for second on the team, and he is the Tigers' leading offensive rebounder.

Quan Prowell – Senior, 6-8, 215 lbs. – A versatile forward with a mean post game, Prowell is shooting a team best 51.1 percent from the floor en route to 16.0 points per game in SEC play.  Though he struggled with his outside shot in the first half of the season, the senior has found his stroke down the stretch.  The former Furman Paladin has gone 27-of-56 (48.2 percent) from three-point land in Auburn's last 11 games, proving to be a mismatch for many of the league's more traditional post players.  Prowell's quickness and perimeter skills allow him to lure bigger forwards out to the three-point arc, opening the lane for Auburn's array of talented inside scorers, of which Prowell is one.  Vanderbilt held the senior to 12 points, thanks mostly to the quickness of A.J. Ogilvy in the defensive post.  The 6-8 Tiger ranks 11th in the SEC in rebounding, snatching 6.6 boards per game.

Rasheem Barrett – Junior, 6-5, 220 lbs. – Barrett is Auburn's most dangerous outside shooter, leading the team with 44 three-pointers on the season.  The junior is not the Tigers' most efficient scorer, ranking last on the team with 1.09 points per shot, and he's been especially cold lately.  Barrett is shooting just 38.2 percent from the floor over the last eight games, and he's a meager 3-of-15 from beyond the arc in the past four games.  Though he's capable of putting up big numbers, his shot deserts him at times; Barrett was held scoreless on 0-for-9 shooting in the team's first meeting with Vanderbilt.

Quantez Robertson – Junior, 6-3, 195 lbs. – The Tiger guard leads his team and ranks ninth in the conference with 3.7 assists per game in SEC play.  Though he shares ball handling duties, Robertson is Auburn's most effective distributor.  His assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.7-to-1 against SEC foes leads the team, and he commits fewer turnovers than any other Tiger starter, an impressive feat for a point guard.  While Robertson's scoring has fallen off a bit from last season (7.7 ppg in '07-'08), he has become one of Auburn's best rebounders and defenders.  The junior is averaging 5.0 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game this year.

DeWayne Reed – Sophomore, 6-1, 175 – Reed, a combo guard, plays shooting guard to Robertson's point much of the time.  A decent outside shooter with a quick first step, the sophomore has the ability to score points in a hurry, as he showed by scoring in double figures five times in six games back in late January.  Since then, Reed has averaged just 7.2 points in the last nine games, and that's including a 23-point outburst in a win over Ole Miss.  His 1.7 steals per game in SEC play are good for fourth in the conference; Reed and Robertson make up perhaps the league's best defensive backcourt.


Auburn's thin bench is highlighted by 6-6 freshman Lucas Hargrove.  The swingman has played significant minutes since Barber went down in December, and he has shown flashes of brilliance in his first season.  Hargrove played 36 minutes and scored 28 points on 9-of-12 from the floor in a win over Alabama.  Though he's a decent perimeter threat, the freshman has converted just 5 of his last 29 from beyond the arc.  A solid rebounder, Hargrove is averaging 4.7 boards per game. as well.

Sophomore Matt Heramb sees very limited playing time in what amounts to a six-man Auburn playing rotation.  The 6-9 forward has range out to the three-point line, where he's shooting 38.9 percent on the season.  Despite his size, Heramb doesn't spend a lot of time in the post; 18 of his 29 field goals have been three-pointers.  If Prowell gets into foul trouble, Lebo may use Heramb to guard Ogilvy; otherwise, the sophomore won't see much of the Georgia Dome floor.

Keys to the Game

  • Inside Out:  The Tigers rank dead last in the SEC in three-point defense, allowing opponents to bomb away at a 38.1 percent clip.  That number looks extremely tempting to a Vanderbilt squad that leads the league in trifectas.  However, the cavernous Georgia Dome has been unkind to perimeter-oriented teams in the past, and the Tigers present the Commodores with an alternate route.  Auburn allows opponents to shoot a blistering 54.7 percent from inside the arc, and A.J. Ogilvy put together an outstanding game against the Tigers back in February.  Ogilvy will cause the same match-up problems for Auburn on Thursday, and with Shan Foster putting fall-aways and strong drives on display more often, Vanderbilt has quite a few options to score in the mid-range and close to the basket.  The Commodores must exercise patience early on, looking for their freshman center on every possession.  If Ogilvy gets off to a hot start, the three-point shots will open up for Foster and company, and the ‘Dores should win comfortably.
  • Protect the Paint:  While the Tigers' starting lineup is a relatively short one, all five starters have the ability to score around the rim.  Auburn is shooting over 53 percent as a team from inside the arc, mostly thanks to the strength and tenacity of Prowell, Tolbert, and Barrett, each of whom boast a dangerous inside-outside game.  Each forward can knock down a three-pointer, and despite their height, they can all bang in the post and finish around the basket.  The Commodores were able to shut down Auburn's inside game, blocking seven shots and neutralizing Prowell and Barrett.  Barring another career game from Tolbert, a repeat effort by Vanderbilt's interior defense will result in a Commodore cakewalk.

Prediction:  Auburn has given Vanderbilt fits in this tournament before, but this time, the Commodores present the Tigers with a huge match-up concern.  Prowell is a talented player on both ends of the court, but he is too small to contain Ogilvy.  Look for the freshman to dominate his first SEC Tournament game.  If the Commodore guards can shoot their average from beyond the arc, Vanderbilt will advance to face Arkansas on Friday.  Final score: Vanderbilt 80, Auburn 69. Top Stories