Auburn, Ala.--Rob Chubb, who had his best performance of the 2010-2011 season vs. South Carolina, said that Saturday’s league contest vs. the Gamecocks is a basketball game that his Auburn team needs to win.
Tipoff is set for 12:37 p.m. CST at the Auburn Arena as the Tigers play host to a South Carolina team that has an 8-9 overall mark and is 0-3 in the SEC after facing a demanding league schedule with losses to Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Florida.
“We need to get our SEC wins,” said Chubb, who scored 18 points last season at South Carolina. “We need to start to get momentum to go through the SEC. This is a perfect time to start.”
Coach Tony Barbee’s Tigers are 11-7 overall and 1-3 in the SEC as they try to bounce back from an overtime road loss on Tuesday vs. LSU.
South Carolina, a team that is holding opponents to just 40.3 shooting from the field this season, will be making its first appearance at the Auburn Arena for a game that will be televised by the SEC Network.
“They have got kind of a squirrelly two-three matchup (zone) we have worked on in practice,” Chubb said. “We have been working on different techniques to break it down. Game plan-wise, we are good to go.”
The 6-10 junior center said another emphasis has been on maintaining focus and intensity defensively from the start to finish of games. “The main thing Coach Barbee has been telling us is don’t let offense affect our defense,” pointed out Chubb, who noted the Tigers have struggled with their scoring consistency.
Playing in Columbia last January, the Tigers picked up their first SEC victory of the season with a 79-64 decision vs. South Carolina at the Colonial Life Arena. In addition to Chubb’s big game, Josh Wallace added a career-high 17 points and Kenny Gabriel chipped in with a career-high 13 rebounds.
Barbee said that Wallace, a walk-on junior, has played well in a reserve role in recent games. Chubb agrees.
“The thing that is so great about Josh is he is so fast and he is like energetic by nature,” Chubb pointed out. “His personality alone brings a spark, then when he gets up underneath people and disrupts and gets key steals like against LSU, where he had a couple of great ones, that gets our momentum rolling.”
Chubb, who had his first career double-double on Tuesday night, said he has been working this week to iron out kinks in his game. He was off to a strong start shooting free throws this season, but hit just 1-5 vs. LSU. He has been concentrating on free throw technique during and after practices this week.
The center also had problems catching the basketball at times vs. LSU and that prompted him to do hand-eye coordination drills with a tennis ball, something that he trained doing during the offseason.
Another junior, Frankie Sullivan, led Auburn in scoring at LSU, but is not satisfied with his play.
Sullivan said he has been working this week to get his legs stronger. He pointed out late in the game on Tuesday night vs. LSU his shot was coming up short, which he sees as a sign of fatigue and something he needs to improve as he continues to rehab from knee surgery.
Frankie Sullivan has averaged 19 points per outing in his last two games after averaging just 5.7 points per game in the previous six contests.
Sullivan noted that Barbee has challenged several of the veteran players to step up and perform better, and he is one of those guys. “Anything I can to help the team, I am willing to do it,” he said.
Like Chubb, Sullivan has praise for the work that Wallace has put in at point guard in recent games.
“He is a sparkplug,” Sullivan said. “He is the key to the ignition when he comes off the bench. He gives us that extra gear we need.”
Malik Cooke, 6-6, 215 senior forward, leads South Carolina in scoring with an average of 12.5 points per contest. Bruce Ellington, a 5-9, 197 sophomore guard, is the second leading scorer at 11.1 points per game.
Coach Darrin Horn’s Gamecocks are averaging 63.9 points per game and giving up 63.1.
“They are playing better now that Ellington has his basketball legs back from his football legs,” Barbee said of the two-sport standout for the Gamecocks.
Barbee noted South Carolina’s conference record is deceiving because of the competition faced so far. “They are in desperation mode and we know that,” the Auburn coach said.
Premium Subscription Signup