Auburn, Ala.--With no classes and an eight-day break since the Tigers defeated Boston College, Coach Tony Barbee has put his basketball team through two-a-day workouts as they prepare for SEC play.
On Monday night his 6-3 Tigers will have their next to last tuneup before taking on their conference schedule when Arkansas-Pine Bluff visits Auburn Arena for an 8 p.m. CST tipoff. The game time was moved back one hour to accommodate TV and will be telecast on CSS.
Since opening the season with wins vs. Tuskegee and Morehouse the Golden Lions have dropped nine straight games. In their last outing Arkansas-Pine Bluff dropped an 86-61 game at Iowa.
Asked what his team has been focusing on in practice, Coach Tony Barbee said, “It is not so much about Arkansas-Pine Bluff, it’s about us improving.
“What I talked to the guys about during the break when they went home and I was studying tape on our team, I told the guys we are taking steps in a positive direction,” Barbee said.
“Every day we are in practice we are getting better and it is showing in our play, but I said ultimately we strive to be playing our best basketball sometime as we get to the mid-stretch of conference play,” he added.
Coach Tony Barbee
“You want to be playing good basketball as you get into conference play and I think we are heading in that direction, and you want to be playing your best basketball about halfway through conference play,” Barbee said.
“As I am studying tape and looking at strengths and weaknesses, I keep talking to them that right now there is about 40 percent left in our capacity that we haven’t tapped into yet,” the coach said. “I talked about what those things are with the team. I said every day let’s find a way to close the gap on that 40 percent and that is the way you get to playing your best basketball.”
K.T. Harrell, who was named SEC Player of the Week after his team’s back-to-back victories over Clemson and Boston College, said his team has improved since dropping back-to-back games to Iowa State and Illinois.
“We have improved so much since the Illinois game and we continue to improve,” said the junior guard, who is averaging 19.1 points per game. “We are working hard at practice every day just trying to get better.”
Senior Chris Denson is leading the Tigers in scoring at 19.2 points per contest, which currently ranks him second in the SEC. Denson’s 173 points are the most in the first nine games of the season for the Tigers since Toney Douglas scored 173 to open the 200405 season.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff, which was picked to finish third in the SWAC behind Texas Southern and Southern, is led in scoring by 6-0 junior guard Tevin Hammond at 12.8 points per contest while 6-8 junior forward Davon Haynes is scoring 12.5 points per game and is the top rebounder with 7.0 per contest.
Shooting and shooting defense have been issues for the Golden Lions, who are hitting just 39.5 percent from the field while opponents are making 50.9 percent of their shots.
The Tigers will play Florida A&M on January 4th before opening SEC play on Jan. 9th at Ole Miss.
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