Auburn, Ala.--With Auburn tied for the second most wins in SEC men's basketball, Coach Jeff Lebo…
Saturday a Special Day for Four Tigers
Auburn, Ala.—Saturday will be a special day for Auburn basketball, not just because SEC-leading LSU is visiting Beard-Eaves with tremendous stakes on the line, but it's also Senior Day for four Auburn players. Korvotney Barber, Rasheem Barrett and Quantez Robertson will be playing the final home game of their careers as the Tigers try to keep their NCAA Tournament dreams alive. Senior walk-on Drew Smith, who has not played in a game this year, will also be recognized. "I'm going to treat it like every other game," Barrett says. "It's the last game before we go into the SEC tournament. It's going to be emotional because it's the last game here at Auburn. We've had some fun times here and we're looking to close it out with a win. LSU is a great team, but we feel like if we come out here and practice hard, we play hard, that we'll come out here with a ‘W.' "I'm not going to cry or anything like that," Barrett jokes. "It's basketball. In high school you have a last game. You play and you move on. The same here. You play as hard as you can and you move onto the next level of basketball." Robertson, who has been a team leader since his freshman year, says his family is going to be traveling all the way from Cincinnati, Ohio, to watch him play in the final regular season game of his career. He is expecting a good atmosphere, but says he won't let emotions get the best of him. "That's just the type of person I am," he says. "I'm not too emotional about stuff like this. It's going to be that type of atmosphere though with my family around and my last game played in this coliseum. It's the last time I'm playing with a bunch of good guys out here in this gym. It's going to be that type of atmosphere, but I don't believe I'll let it get to me. "It's a pretty big game for me, Rasheem and Korvotney being that this will be our last home game we play in Beard-Eaves and playing against a team that's a pretty good team that we can probably beat here on our home floor," Robertson adds. Barber admits that it will be an emotional day, but with the Tigers winning seven of eight down the stretch, reaching 20 wins with a victory at Alabama on Tuesday, combined with Auburn fighting to make the NCAA Tournament it's also an important basketball game. "It's going to be real emotion," Barber explains, "but there is going to be happiness at the same time. We've finally got a 20-win season, so we're very excited about that. LSU is coming in, a ranked team, so hopefully we can defeat them here. That'll look even better on our resume trying to get a bid for the NCAA." Asked what he'll miss the most about playing basketball at Auburn, Barber responds, "Just my teammates. The few fans that we did have come to the games are our true fans. We'll miss them, and my teammates–just hanging out with them a lot." Even though the Auburn fans haven't shown much support by attending the games the last four years, Barrett says he's going to miss the ones that showed up as well. "Everyone that came to the games and everyone who is still here with us now, that's what I'm going to miss the most," Barrett notes. "You can't beat that. It's a long way from home and you come into a new environment, you've got thousands of family. It's just a warm atmosphere and I love it." However, now that Auburn is playing well there is expected to be a large crowd in attendance. "It'll be good to see," Robertson states. "It's like that sixth man on the court–the crowd–to help with momentum for us and everything. It'll be good to see that." Smith, the other senior, has not dressed for a game this year and will not play. However, his contributions to the Auburn basketball program have not gone unnoticed. "He has been kind of our scout team guy," Lebo says of Smith, a senior from Trussville. "He has not suited up for us. We made some adjustments with him as a walk-on because of his classes. He wants to be a doctor and they don't move those classes around basketball. He has had to have some classes that fall right into the middle of practice. He comes kind of here and there when he can around his class schedule. "I haven't had a walk-on really for four years," Lebo adds. "Usually the life-span of a walk-on is about one year. That is about all he can handle. Mentally and physically it is a hard thing and he has been around four years and that is something that is very special." Barber leads the SEC in offensive rebounds and defensive rebounds in conference games. The lone loss Auburn has suffered in more than at month was a close defeat versus LSU in Baton Rouge on Feb. 21. The Fighting Tigers lost to Vanderbilt on Wednesday, but have already wrapped up the SEC regular season championship with a 13-2 conference record. LSU is 25-5 overall and ranked 11th/12th in the country. "They are considered one of the best teams," Robertson says, "but for us to get a chance to play them again is a good thing for us to put on our resume. They're a ranked team and to try to beat them here is going to be tough. "It's been real fun being that every game is getting us closer to the NCAA," Robertson says of the last month. "We just have to focus on LSU and the SEC Tournament right now." Trent Johnson's Tigers are arguably the most talented team in the league with Tasmin Mitchell, Marcus Thornton and Chris Johnson leading the way. However, according to Barrett, they also have the intangibles. "They've just got chemistry," he says. "They know the strength of each player on the team and they use it. They don't try to do more than they can do. They just play great ball. They play physical, they're real tough and they refuse to lose." The 79-72 loss at Maravich Assembly Center was a tough, physical game where Auburn felt like it was on the wrong end of several bad calls. Playing the rematch in Auburn, the Tigers feel like they may get dealt a better hand this time around. "They were letting us play a little bit," point guard DeWayne Reed says. "Some of the calls we should have got. I guess we were playing on the road and you don't normally get calls on the road. It was a physical game. "I feel like we'll get more calls here," he adds. "Us getting to the goal and getting fouled, like what we were doing at LSU, they weren't calling it. We feel like we can play them better in front of our home crowd." "We just have to match their physicality," Barber adds. "It was a real physical game. A couple of guys got their jerseys ripped and there were a lot of scratches here or there, but that's part of the game. We'll be ready though." Tipoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. on Saturday with television coverage on Raycom.
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