AU Hoops Team Preparing For UNLV Running Rebels

<b>Jeff Lebo</b>

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn's 76-61 victory in Charleston was probably the most pleasant surprise of the early part of the 2004-2005 AU basketball season.

After losing at home on Sunday to the Wofford Terriers, who are expected to be a lower division Southern Conference team, the Tigers overpowered College of Charleston with strong defense and domination of the boards. The team from Charleston is expected to make a strong run at the Southern Conference title and seldom loses at home.

"We did it for the most part with good defense and we did it, and I didn't know that I would ever say this, we did it with some rebounding, and some offensive rebounding," Coach Jeff Lebo says.

"Then, I never thought I would see our team this year out-rebound somebody by 17, but that is what we did. We got a lot of second-shot opportunities. For the most part, we moved the ball around very well. We got some good looks from three. We didn't make them, but defensively is where I thought we won the game. We did a good job on them."

The Tigers, who improved to 6-2 with the victory over Charleston, will be back at home on Sunday to play UNLV. Last season, the Tigers lost to the Rebels by an 82-69 margin in Las Vegas on Dec. 22nd. The Tigers were 6-0 at the time while UNLV was struggling. This year the Rebels are 2-3.

Tipoff for the game is set for 2 p.m. on Sunday at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum. Auburn's coach says the Rebels will be another matchup problem with 6-10 and 6-9 centers and 6-7 forwards with good athleticism.

Lebo says he will be looking for the same kind of intensity the Tigers took on the road to face College of Charleston. "We made them work the ball," he says. "Their team looks to shoot fairly quickly and they didn't make shots. They were 0-13 (threes) and I thought we did a nice job of guarding their best players--Tony Mitchell and Stanley Jackson."

Jackson, a 6-3 senior guard, hit 7-14 shots for 16 points. Mitchell, a 5-11 senior guard, made just 1-8 shots for two points. He was the Cougars' leading scorer at 15.5 points per game.

"We have battled pretty good," Lebo says of his team's three road games--an 80-78 win at Temple, an 89-87 setback vs. Virginia and the win over College of Charleston. "We are a shot away from beating Virginia on the road," Lebo notes. We have played pretty well on the road.

"We have battled pretty well to date," Lebo says of his undersized team. "We have got freshmen, and you never know what you are going to get from them, especially on the road. I thought we bounced back quickly from a disappointing 30 minutes against Wofford on the defensive end. We challenged them defensively. You know Charleston is not a gigantic team. They don't throw ball into the post a whole heck of a lot. We matched up well against them."

After struggling in the 85-78 loss to Wofford, freshman guard Toney Douglas bounced back with a strong game vs. College of Charleston with a solid all-around performance that included a game-high total of 17 points.

"He took one bad shot that I thought he really tried to force early in the Charleston game," Lebo says. "When Toney takes good ones, shots that he can make within the flow of the offense, he does much better."

Senior guard/forward Ronney LeMelle, who reinjured his knee vs. Wofford and did not play vs. College of Charleston, is not expected to play vs. UNLV either.

Fans attending the game will be able to pose for photos of the 2004 SEC Football Championship trophy that Auburn won last Saturday. That event starts at 12:30 p.m. on the upper level of the concourse and fans need to bring their own cameras.

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