Auburn, Ala.--Coach Tony Barbee’s Tigers will be looking for their third win of the young basketball season when Murray State visits Auburn for a 7 p.m. tipoff on Saturday.
After going 4-0 in exhibition games the Tigers opened the regular season with a 76-54 victory vs. Nicholls State before falling 111-92 to Northwestern State. On Tuesday night the Tigers handled Jacksonville State 78-54.
Murray State is 2-2 following a home victory over Bethel by a 91-64 margin. The Racers opened the season with a 77-74 road loss at Valparaiso before defeating Brescia 97-69 at home. In their second road game of the season the Racers lost 70-60 to Old Dominion.
Auburn leads the series 2-1, but lost to Murray State 79-59 last season in the opening round of the Charleston Classic.
After a terrible defensive second half vs. Northwestern State when the Tigers gave up 72 points, Auburn held Jacksonville State to 54 points for the entire game. Barbee says he saw improvement defensively vs. the Gamecocks on Tuesday night, but adds there is plenty of work to be done.
“Even though we scored a lot of points and we shot a high percentage, our execution wasn’t as sharp as it needed to be,” the coach said. “We are going to try and keep our defense sharp and get our offense back to where we want it.”
The Racers feature four players who are scoring in double figures. Jarvis Williams, a 6-8 junior forward, is averaging a double-double with 15 points and 11.5 rebounds per contest. Dexter Fields, a senior guard, is the top scorer at 15.8 points per game.
Cameron Payne, a 6-2 freshman guard, is averaging 13.5 points per contest and 6-4 sophomore guard Jeffrey Moss from Bob Jones High in Madison, Ala., is scoring 12.3 points per contest.
Senior guard Chris Denson leads the Tigers in scoring at 21.3 points and is adding 6.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists per contest. Junior guard K.T. Harrell is the No. 2 scorer at 18.7 points and is averaging 4.0 rebounds.
Seven-foot senior center Asauhn Dixon-Tatum is AU’s top rebounder at 7.0 per contest and he is also scoring 7.0 points per game.
Freshman Tajh Shamsid-Deen leads the Tigers in assists at 4.0 per contest. The point guard said his team learned a lesson about the value of playing good defense when the Tigers were embarrassed by Northwestern State, the defending champions of the Southland Conference.
Tajh Shamsid-Deen is Auburn's starting point guard.
“The conference and the name of the school does not matter,” the freshman said. “Every night you have to give 100 percent no matter what the name of the school is. We learned that the hard way, but we are planning on not letting it happen again.”
Barbee said he saw more attention to detail from his players on the defensive end of the court vs. Jacksonville State than in the loss to Northwestern State. “We didn’t do that the game before,” he pointed out.
“We have to hang our hat on the defensive end of the floor and that’s individually knowing matchups, knowing cross-matchups if you get caught on a guy that’s not yours, and then what we are trying to get done, whether it’s in man or one of our zones.”
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