The Auburn basketball team faces its first road game and toughest challenge so far this season as the Tigers take on Iowa State in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge.
Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. CST from Hilton Coliseum in Ames where Coach Tony Barbee’s team will face the 17th-ranked Cyclones, who bring a 5-0 record into the contest and a 17-game winning streak vs. non-conference opponents. The game will be televised on ESPNU.
Iowa State features six players who are scoring in double figures led by six-foot-six senior forward Melvin Ejim, a preseason all-conference selection who is averaging 18.0 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.
Melvin Ejim is a senior from Canada for Coach Fred Hoiberg's Cyclones, who have their highest ranked team since the 2000-2001 season.
Senior DeAndre Kane, a 6-4 guard, is averaging 16.4 points and 8.4 rebounds while 6-6 junior forward Dustin Hogue is contributing 10.0 points and 8.6 rebounds per contest.
“It’s a big opportunity playing against a Top 20 team in the country, a very well-coached team, a team that has been one of the best teams in the Big 12 over the last two or three years,” Barbee said. “It’s a heck of an opportunity and it’s going to be a heck of a challenge.”
Auburn, which brings a 4-1 record into the game, has won its last three contests. Senior guard Chris Denson is leading the Tigers in scoring at 20.4 points per game while junior guard K.T. Harrell is next at 17.4.
Denson said he agrees with Barbee about Iowa State being a strong opponent. “I watched most of their games against BYU and Michigan,” the senior said. “They are a tough team. We are going to play our best basketball to beat them.”
Barbee noted the Tigers have not been playing up to their potential so far. “I am a little apprehensive going up there,” the coach said.
“It seems like we have been stuck in the mud and we haven’t gotten better,” he added. “A little bit of that is I think we have played down some to the level of our competition, which isn’t a good sign...That is where I am a little disappointed with this group.”
Iowa State has been shooting the ball very well early in the season. The Cyclones are making 51.1 of their shots while holding opponents to 35.5 percent. From three-point range ISU has made 51-133 shots for a very respectable 38.3 percent.
Auburn has struggled with its three-point shooting, making 21-85 (24.7 percent). Overall the Tigers are making 45.8 percent of their shots while opponents are hitting 44.1 percent. Auburn is plus 6.0 in rebounding margin while Iowa State is plus 9.8.
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