Tigers "Dialed In Defensively" Vs. Gators

DeWayne Reed (right) hugs Quantez Robertson

Comments from Auburn players and Jeff Lebo are featured after Auburn's SEC Tournament victory vs. Florida.

Tampa, Fla.--Rasheem Barrett couldn't be thrilled with his shooting performance in the quarter-finals of the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament, but the senior wasn't letting that spoil the moment as he and his teammates celebrated a tense 61-58 victory over the Florida Gators.

The Gators had the home-state crowd advantage, but Auburn had hard-nosed seniors like Barrett and that was the difference in the showdown at the St. Pete Times Forum in the late show on Friday night.

"I told you if you work hard in practice and go out and have fun in the game then good things will happen," Barrett told Inside the Auburn Tigers.

"We played hard in this game," he said. "When you have some players who can't get going other players can step up on offense, but you can always play defense for 40 minutes and that is what we did.

"Coach (Jeff) Lebo always tells us, ‘If the offense isn't going, you can always win with defense. That is what we did tonight. We came together as a team.

"We believe that defense wins games and can win a championship," Barrett added. "We have worked hard to play that way and it is paying off."

Barrrett scored just five points and hit just 2-9 field goals, but added five rebounds, a steal, an assist and lots of hustle as Auburn nipped the Gators 61-58 to advance into the semi-finals of the SEC Tournament.

Auburn will take on a Tennessee team that toyed with Alabama in the first half of the Friday night session in Tampa. Tipoff is scheduled for 2:15 p.m. CDT on Saturday in the rematch between the Tigers and the Vols that Auburn won 78-77 in Auburn on Feb. 7th.

Junior forward Lucas Hargrove agreed with his senior teammate about defense being the key to the victory over Florida and said the Tigers still have plenty of work to do. "Tennessee is a really good team and to win the game we are going to have to play great defense from the start to the finish," noted Hargrove, who scored 11 points and added five rebounds in 22 minutes off the bench.

Another junior, Tay Waller, chipped in with 11 points. He has had better games offensively, but said he probably hasn't enjoyed any one more than the victory over the Gators.

"That is one of the most fun games I have ever been involved in," Waller said. "Defense, staying together and keeping our poise are the things that won for us. When they made their runs we responded."

All things considered, Auburn's head coach said there was a lot to like.

"I just thought defensively from the beginning to the end we were terrific," Lebo said. "Florida comes in as a very tough team to defend--one of the best offensive teams in our league. I was just really proud how we guarded for 40 minutes. We were dialed in defensively."

The Auburn coach added his team has been playing well defensively for a long time now and that explains nine victories in Auburn's last 10 games. He noted that point guard DeWayne Reed had a strong defensive perforrmance against All-SEC Florida point guard Nick Calathes that more than made up for Reed's off-night offensively when he scored just five points.

The Tigers return to action in a game scheduled to start at 2:15 p.m. CDT from the St. Petes Time Forum following the LSU vs. Mississippi State semi-final matchup.

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