Auburn, Ala.--If Coach Tony Barbee’s basketball Tigers are going to get their first SEC win of the season this week they will have to do it on the road.
Auburn will travel to Starkville on Wednesday to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs, who are 2-2 in the league and 12-4 overall. On Saturday the Tigers will visit the Arkansas Razorbacks, who are 12-5 overall and 1-3 in the league.
The Tigers, who are 8-7 overall, are coming off a 68-61 homecourt loss on Saturday to SEC league leader. Auburn had a chance to win the game until the closing seconds, something that happened in SEC losses at Ole Miss and at home vs. Missouri.
“We haven’t had that moment, we haven’t broken through,” said Barbee, whose losing streak is up to 14 straight in league games dating back to last season. “We played well at Ole Miss, we had an opportunity to win there and we had our chances at Tennessee and we just couldn’t quite get over the hump.
“We have played well on the road as well as we have at home, but it’s going to be a challenge at Mississippi State.”
Despite the disappointing losses, Barbee said on Monday that his team is staying focused and is eager to improve. “The mindset has been great. This is a different group. We have had great chemistry. The guys like playing together. We are playing hard, we are playing tough.
“We haven’t had that breakthrough moment, but it’s coming,” he added. “The makeup of the individuals I have on this team and the makeup and character they have collectively as a group, it’s coming. We just have to stay the course and keep doing what we are doing. When we get that win things will open up for us.”
If the Tigers are going to get into the victory column this week they need to do a better job of rebounding the basketball. For the season the Tigers are plus 1.1 in rebounding margin, but -7.0 in their four SEC games. Only Vandy at minus 10.0 and Arkansas at minus 10.8 are being out-rebounded at a higher margin in league contests.
Senior guard Chris Denson noted that a failure to pull in rebounds with games on the line is one of the reasons why the Tigers haven’t been able to pull out victories in close games in SEC play. “We missed shots, but it all comes down to the trenches on the defensive rebounds and the 50-50 balls,” he said.
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