Waller, Tigers Looking for Improved Play

Tay Waller

Senior guard Tay Waller and the Tigers will take on the visiting Ole Miss Rebels at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

Auburn, Ala.--Going into the season Auburn basketball coach Jeff Lebo was counting on Tay Waller to be a primary scorer for the Tigers and a guy who helped open up shots for his teammates.

With 20 games in the books, it's been a disappointing season for Waller both personally and team-wise. His Tigers are 10-10 overall and 1-4 in the league going into Thursday night's home game vs. Ole Miss.

Waller, a 6-2 guard from Manchester, Ga., High via Okaloosa-Walton junior college, missed the first six games of the season with an injury and just recently got back to full speed while overcoming a thigh injury.

The senior is fourth on the team in scoring with 11.5 points per game. His shots per contest are down from just under 10 as a junior to 8.8, a number that was expected to increase rather than decrease.

In an attempt to get the shooting guard more involved in the offense, Lebo has been emphasizing the importantance of Waller taking the basketball on the dribble and driving to the basket to score or get fouled. "I have been focusing on that the last three games," Waller says. "I have been trying to get to the goal a lot more than I have in the past."

Waller and Lebo note that if defenders have to worry about the guard beating them off the dribble, that will give the senior better looks from behind the three-point line because opponents will be less likely to try over-play the guard and deny him the ball.

This season Waller has hit 35-93 threes for 37.6 percent. Last season he made 36.8 percent of his 272 treys.

Before Waller developed a reputation as a three-point bomber in junior college, he was known as a guy who liked to take the ball inside. "In high school I was a much more aggressive driver than I am now," he remembers.

Auburn has been inconsistent this year although the Tigers have shown flashes of strong play in recent games against Tennessee, Kentucky LSU and Vanderbilt.

"We feel like we can play with anybody," Waller says. "We have shown we can play with them. We just have to keep it going the whole game instead of coming out in the (first) half and play good basketball and in the second half not do anything at all."

The senior notes that a key to making that happen is to play with more discipline on offense. "With the team we have now, when we are running plays that is when we play better," says Waller, who adds that his team has been "frustrating" at times this year because of its inconsistency from game to game or even half to half.

Tipoff for Thursday's game is 8:05 p.m. at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum vs. an Ole Miss team that is 15-4 overall and 3-2 in the SEC. The game will be televised on ESPNU.

Waller says he is impressed with the Rebels. "They have three very good guards and all of them can shoot and all of them get to the basket at the same time," the Auburn senior says. "It is going to test our defense."

Lebo is hoping that Waller can do the same thing to the Ole Miss defense as the Tigers look for their first victory of the season over a nationally-ranked team with the No. 18 Rebels in town.

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