Auburn, Ala.--Auburn’s leading scorer, junior guard K.T. Harrell, said that his struggling basketball team is still working hard to be successful as the Tigers prepare for Thursday night’s home game vs. Alabama.
The contest was originally scheduled to be played on Wednesday, but AU, Alabama and SEC officials made the decision to postpone the game because of unsafe driving conditions. The contest will now be a part of a doubleheader following the Texas A&M at Auburn women's game, which will start at 5 p.m. CST.
Auburn, 8-9 overall and 0-6 in the SEC, will take on an Alabama team that is 9-10 overall and 3-3 in the SEC. Because of the postponement there will be not television coverage for the game.
Asked what his team needs to do to get in the victory column in SEC play, Harrell said, “Just keep working--we are getting better. Yesterday we had a good practice. Guys brought a lot of energy and we are having fun out here so we are staying positive. As long as we do that I feel like we will continue to get better.”
Harrell said the Tigers took a couple of steps backwards on Saturday night in their road loss at Arkansas, the first of their SEC games that wasn’t close in the closing minutes. Against the Razorbacks the Tigers were in striking range with five minutes left, but the home team pulled away for an 86-67 victory.
In that contest the Tigers struggled with their shooting, making just 36.2 percent of their field goals. Harrell, one of the better shooting guards in the league, did not have a good night from the field as he hit 5-13 shots on his way to scoring 17 points. “We talked about it, we addressed it and I feel like at practice we did a good job of bringing energy, having fun and trying to get better,” he said.
Harrell leads the Tigers in scoring at 19.1 points per game. Alabama is led by senior guard Trevor Releford, who is averaging 18.2 points per contest.
“They have a pretty good guard in Trevor Releford and we are going to be game-planning around him,” Harrell said. “He has the ball in his hands a lot. He is aggressive--an aggressive point guard.
“He is not a traditional point guard that is always trying to find his teammates,” added Harrell, whose Tigers practiced on Tuesday morning with classes at the university being cancelled because of a winter storm.
Tajh Shamsid-Deen has been a fixture in Auburn's starting lineup at point guard as a freshman.
The Tigers are still looking for a more balanced scoring effort. Harrell and senior guard Chris Denson, who is averaging 18.8 points per contest, are the only Tigers averaging in double figures. The number three scorer, point guard Tajh Shamsid-Deen, is averaging 8.9 points.
“We need contributions from everybody,” Harrell said. “It’s not going to be two or three people that is going to win a game every night. We need people to step up off the bench--not even points. We need loose balls, rebounds, all the little things. If we can get those things from our bench players and our role players, we will win.”
Coach Tony Barbee said that senior forward Allen Payne is back to full speed physically after suffering a hamstring injury in the SEC opener. Payne is averaging 7.0 points and 6.0 rebounds per game while senior center Asauhn Dixon-Tatum, who did not score vs. Arkansas, is averaging 5.9 points and 6.4 rebounds.
“We have been getting out-played in conference play along that front line,” Barbee said of the performance from the centers and forwards. “That’s been the difference in us winning and losing these games.”
The Tigers need seven-footer Asahun Dixon-Tatum to have a big night vs. Alabama.
Barbee noted that he agrees with Harrell’s assessment of preparations for Thursday night’s rivalry game vs. the Tide. “We had a great practice,” the coach said. “This team is focused. This team is ready for the breakthrough. We have been playing well.
“Obviously, we had our moments against Arkansas and we just couldn’t quite get over that hump, but this team is working its tail off and they are working together and their ready for the breakthrough,” Barbee added.
Last season the Tigers and Tide split games. Auburn won 49-37 at Auburn Arena as the Tigers held Alabama to its lowest point total ever vs. Auburn. The Tide won the rematch 61-43 in Tuscaloosa.
Harrell was redshirting last year and watched the Alabama at Auburn game from the bench as a transfer from Virginia. The junior from Montgomery is looking forward to playing in the rivalry game for the first time.
“It was a grinder and it was fun, too,” he said of last year’s game at Auburn Arena. “I think Cam (Cam Newton) was in the place that night and we had a lot of energy. The fans were bringing a lot of energy. We expect the same thing tomorrow.”
At halftime of Thursday's game members of the Auburn football team will be presented the ODK Trophy, which goes annually to the winner of the Auburn-Alabama football game.