Tiger Test

Auburn head basketball coach Jeff Lebo calls West Virginia "the best team, and the best defensive team" his Auburn club has faced thus far in the season.

"[West Virginia] has the most size and the most athleticism of anyone we have played this year," said Lebo as he prepared his team to meet the Mountaineers in the Big East/SEC Invitational in Birmingham, Ala., on Wednesday night. "It will be a heck of a match. They have some depth, and the way they play will be a problem for us. They pressure the ball and make it difficult for you to catch passes, and it will require a lot of energy for us. Bob Huggins' teams spend a lot of time working on defense. They've been making the transition from John Beilein where they played a 1-3-1, to a man-to-man defense, and they have forced 131 turnovers in six games."

Lebo, whose team has been playing with a short roster (only nine players have seen the floor this year, with seven of them getting the bulk of the minutes) is expected to get a boost with the return of senior Quan Prowell, who has yet to see game action after being suspended for the first five contests of the season for violations of team rules. Lebo, a former University of North Carolina star is happy to see any sort of help coming for his short bench, which failed to produce a point in Auburn's win over George Washington.

"Obviously it will be a big help to have him back," Lebo said. "Just to have an extra guy will be nice. He can score for us, and we don't have to change too much of what we do. We will play the same way with him in there. He can play the five, the four or the three, so I don't think it will be a big adjustment for him to go in there with the other guys. He is one of our bigger guys, and hopefully he can get us a rebound or two."

Since Prowell has not yet tasted game action this year, there is some concern as to his game readiness. Lebo thinks he will be ready to go, while teammate Frank Tolbert believes it will be more of a wait and see situation.

"I don't know if he is in game ready shape, we will see the first few minutes of the game," Tolbert said. "Nothing has changed with him, though. He is anxious to get back out on the court."

In Prowell's absence, Auburn has gone the "iron man" route to win games," according to Lebo. Three Tiger starters played the entire game against George Washington (a 74-70 win), but Lebo knows that practice can't continue.

"We have gutted a few wins out," the coach said. "When you have long layoffs you can do that, but over time it will wear you out. We have to be a little more simple now and we have made some adjustments with practice times and things like that."

The modified schedule may have worked, as Auburn has seen its shooting percentages increase over the past couple of games in road wins at Alabama State and Charleston Southern, as well as on a neutral court against George Washington.

"We have found touch from the field," Tolbert said. "We have been playing better defense too. This is a big game for us,. [West Virginia is] very physical. It's our toughest challenge this year. Last year we didn't win many games on the road, so to win some games on the road like we have so far will help up down the line."

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