Auburn, Ala.--Tony Barbee says a combination of improved play from veterans and newcomers in recent weeks has helped his basketball team open league play with a pair of victories.
After defeating LSU in Auburn the Tigers improved to 2-0 in the SEC with a 74-71 road win on Saturday at South Carolina. Auburn will be back on the road on Wednesday for a 7 p.m. CST game vs. the Arkansas Razorbacks, who are 1-1 in the league and 10-5 overall.
“There are a lot of different things that are starting to come together,” Barbee says. “The biggest thing is the younger guys--Brian Greene, Shaquille Johnson, Jordon Grange--who helped us the last game and Asauhn Dixon-Tatum. All the new guys this year are starting to understand what it takes to play, compete and to win at this level.
“Coupled with that the chemistry between the veteran older guys, the juniors and seniors on this team, and the younger guys has started to converge to grow and get better because those younger guys are catching up to speed on what it is to compete and to win at this level.”
Against South Carolina the Tigers got a team-high 17 points from guard Frankie Sullivan and 16 points with 10 rebounds from center Rob Chubb. “Those guys are playing like seniors,” Barbee says. “They are playing confident, and like I told them, at this time of the year in conference play the new guys are going to be up and down still because they are new to this.
“This time of the year is when seniors and veteran players, our juniors on our team, win games,” Barbee adds. “If the freshmen and new guys chip in, that is just an added bonus. This is the time of the year when seniors have to take over, and that is what happened.
“Frankie Sullivan has played well, Josh Wallace has played well,” Barbee says. “Rob Chubb has given us big minutes and big production as has Noel Johnson as our fourth senior playing being off the bench making shots and making plays. That has made the difference.”
Sullivan goes into Wednesday’s game averaging 17.2 points per game, which is second in the SEC. Chubb leads the Tigers in rebounding with 7.6 per game and is averaging 9.7 points per contest.
Frankie Sullivan rebounds vs. South Carolina. He is averaging 4.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game.
In Auburn’s last game the Tigers got 14 points off the bench from Greene, a six-foot-three guard. “The more opportunity he is getting on the floor, the higher his confidence level is going,” Barbee says. “He is a tremendous athlete. He is a very good scorer of the basketball. He has had to adjust like all these new guys have had to the different level of intensity, the defensive schemes at this level that you have. It is not just like in high school worrying about just guarding your man and nobody else. It is just a totally different level in terms of that.
“He has probably had the biggest adjustment to make of all the new guys, and that is why he has struggled to get the opportunity early,” Barbee adds. ‘He is catching on. He is getting better and he is getting up to speed, and that is why he is getting more of an opportunity.”
Arkansas comes into Wednesday’s game at Bud Walton Arena playing well. The Razorbacks had a five-game winning streak ended with a 69-51 loss at Texas A&M to open league play, but bounced back with a 56-33 homecourt win vs. Vandy on Saturday. The Auburn vs. Arkansas game will be televised on the SEC Network.
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