Competition Stiffens As FSU Heads to Auburn

Coach Tony Barbee's basketball team returns to action on Monday night as Florida State visits the Auburn Arena.

Auburn, Ala.--The competition stiffens as Auburn takes on its final pre-conference opponent as the 11-3 Florida State Seminoles visit the Tigers on Monday.

Tipoff time is 7 p.m. CST from the Auburn Arena and the game will be televised by Fox Sports Net.

Auburn, which is 6-7 overall, has won three consecutive games including a 63-45 victory over Grambling on New Year's Eve. The Seminoles have not played since taking a 68-61 victory over Baylor on Christmas Day at a tournament in Honolulu.

The Seminoles have won six of their past seven games, including their ACC opener vs. Clemson. Auburn leads the series 21-7. FSU won the last meeting between the two teams 76-72 in December of 2009.

Auburn coach Tony Barbee said he has been pleased with how his Tigers have played in the first half of its last two games, but said they need to finish stronger. The coach noted he is impressed with the Seminoles, a team he said is better than any opponent the Tigers have faced this season.

"Florida State has been road-tested," he said. "They have been to Hawaii and played really well there. They lost to an outstanding Butler team in the Diamond Head Classic and defeated No. 15 Baylor and Hawaii.

They have one of the more outstanding players in the country in Chris Singleton, who is 6-foot-9," Barbee said. "He is the reigning ACC Defensive Player of the Year and averages 15 points and eight rebounds. He is a prolific three-point shooter (19-of-49, .388) and can post up inside.

"Their point guard, Derwin Kitchen, is a scoring point guard and is bigger than what we have seen being 6-foot-4 at the point," Barbee said. He is the second leading scorer with 10 points per game.

"They are a very big basketball team with 6-foot-10 Bernard James and 6-foot-11 Xavier Gibson," Barbee noted. "They come off the bench with 6-foot-8 Terrance Shannon, and 6-foot-8 Okaro White is an outstanding freshman. Deividas Dulkys is a terrific shooter on the wing. He is Top 10 all-time at Florida State in made three-pointers and attempted three-pointers.

"We have a tough task ahead of us," Barbee added. "It should be an outstanding game. It should be fun to watch. It will be fun for our fans and especially for our players."

Sophomore guard Earnest Ross leads the Tigers in scoring (12.6 points per game) and rebounding (6.8 per contest) and is also averaging 2.1 assists.

Junior forward Kenny Gabriel, who scored a career-high 17 points vs. Grambling while adding 12 rebounds, is Auburn's second leading scorer at nine points per game and is averaging 5.7 points per contest.

Barbee said he has seen signs his team is improving. "From the eye test, we are noticeably better," he said. "There is just a totally different level of understanding, offensively and defensively. They are getting more comfortable playing with each other in game action when I do not have a whistle in my mouth stopping it every play.

Tony Barbee

"There is still a lot of room for improvement and growth," Auburn's first-year head coach said. "We want to be playing better heading into conference play. You want to hit your full stride about a quarter of the way into conference play. We are getting closer to that, but we still have a long way to go."

Following the FSU game the Tigers are off until they take on LSU in the SEC opener at 5 p.m. on Saturday at the Auburn Arena.

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