Good-Shooting Tigers Cruise Past the Cowboys

Varez Ward drives to the basket for the Tigers.

With Rob Chubb scoring 21 points and three others finishing in double figures, Auburn had a stylish opening night victory.

Auburn, Ala.--Robert Chubb scored a career-high 21 points and the junior center got plenty of help from his teammates as the Auburn men's basketball team cruised to an 84-62 victory over the McNeese State Cowboys in the regular season opener for both teams.

Chubb hit 9-12 field goals, all three of his foul shots and tied with teammate Kenny Gabriel for the rebounding lead with seven.

"After months and months of weight-lifting every day and getting beat up in practice, now it is time to start dishing," Chubb said. "Last year we were kind of on the receiving end of some whuppings because personnel was down and all of that stuff.

Rob Chubb scores on a hook show vs. McNeese State.

"Now we have got new pieces to the puzzle and everybody is bigger, stronger and faster," said Chubb, who has gained 23 pounds of muscle since last year, noting he is up to 6-10, 245 pounds.

Auburn coach Tony Barbee said Chubb's performance won't be a one-night deal. "He is a very good player," Barbee said. "He has turned himself, with hard work, into a very good player."

In addition to his hook shot, Chubb scored on spin moves to the basket, something he said he has worked on during the offseason. The junior said if defensive players leave their feet to contest his hook shot, he can go by them to the basket with a quick dribble move.

Barbee said he liked his team's defense, aggressiveness and shot selection and how the Tigers jumped on the visitors after intermission. "I always talk about the importance of the first five minutes of the second half," Barbee said. "We jumped on them and didn't give them any hope."

With Auburn up by 15 points at the break, the Tigers outscored McNeese State 17-2 to start the second half to take a commanding 62-33 lead with 12:21 to play.

"Our depth will allow us to play more aggressive," said Barbee, noting that good things happen when the team plays with that type of attitude on both ends of the court.

Barbee said he liked what he saw out of guards Sullivan and Ward. "It was good to see Frankie back out there healthy even though he didn't have a typical Frankie night. Varez Ward was really good tonight."

"As a team I thought overall we played pretty good," Ward said. "We put a lot of emphasis on defense. I think we held them overall to under 40 percent shooting...They were missing a ton of shots and that got us into our transition game."

Gabriel, who hit all six of his field goals, scored 13 points for the Tigers, who shot 53.2 percent from the field while holding the visitors to just 35.8 percent shooting. The shooting percentage was the best one the Tigers have had in the Auburn Arena since it opened last year.

Ward's Auburn debut was a successful one as the point guard scored 14 points, dished out five assists and had just one turnover as the starting point guard. He combined with junior Josh Wallace, who scored six points, to give the Tigers a strong one-two punch at the position.

Chris Denson, the leading scorer in the exhibition games, scored 10 points while Allen Payne and Frankie Sullivan chipped in with eight apiece.

Auburn's full court pressure allowed the Tigers to jump out to a quick 11-0 lead to the delight of the student section that was into the swing of things early like their team.

McNeese cut the lead to six points, but Auburn pushed the margin to 46-31 at intermission, which was AU's largest lead in the first 20 minutes.

Chubb led the first half scoring with 11 points and was the top rebounder at intermission with five. He hit 5-8 field goals as the Tigers hit 20-34 field goals (58.8 percent) while the visitors made just 9-27 (33.3 percent).

The lead would have been even bigger if the Cowboys hadn't made all 12 of their first half free throws while Auburn hit just 3-7.

The Tigers also helped their cause in the first half by out-rebounding McNeese State 19-13 and forcing nine turnovers.

Sophomore guard Chris Denson drives to the basket for the Tigers.

Auburn came out hot early in the second half and took complete command and was able to win with ease even allowing the walk-ons to mop up in the final minute. The only thing that Barbee wasn't pleased with was how his team finished the game, noting the Cowboys were able to narrow a 29-point lead to 22 by the end of the game.

Starting Lineup: Guard Frankie Sullivan, guard Varez Ward, forward Allen Payne, forward Kenny Gabriel and center Rob Chubb.

Frankie's Return: Back from ACL surgery and a redshirt, Sullivan didn't have a great game statistically, but Chubb said the junior is the team leader. "He is our pit bull, he is our leader," the center said. "We are a different team with him in there and we have new pieces like Varez Ward."

Good Start: Auburn scored the first 11 points before the visitors got on the scoreboard at the 15:02 mark on a rebound by Rudy Turner.

Wounded Freshman: Shooting guard Cedric McAfee has suffered a stress fracture in his foot and is expected to be out of action for more than a month. Barbee said that McAfee had looked very good in practice.

Another Wounded Freshman: Six-foot-eight forward Bernard Morena was held out of action because he had missed so much practice time with an ankle injury. Barbee said the freshman was not ready for game action yet.

Praise for the Students: A large percentage of the 5,225 fans were students and Barbee said they gave the Tigers a great homecourt advantage. "The students were unbelievable," he pointed out. They were there early. They were going crazy."

Still In the Doghouse: Sophomore forward Josh Langford and senior guard Tony Neysmith did not dress out for the game or see action. Barbee suspended both players "indefinitely" prior to the first exhibition game and is not revealing when either will be allowed to play in games although both are practicing with the team.

SEC, SEC, SEC: The Southeastern Conference has been down in recent years in men's hoops, but the league's coaches insist that won't be the case this season. Four teams entered their seasons ranked in the Top 25 with three in the Top 10 for the first time since November of 2006. Kentucky is the highest ranked team at No. 2 by the coaches and No. 3 in AP media poll. Vanderbilt is seventh in both polls, Florida is 8th/10th and Alabama is 19th/17th.

The SEC Tournament will return to New Orleans for the third time. Instead of the SuperDome where the event was played twice, it is scheduled for March 8-11, at the New Orleans Arena, home that city's NBA team.

SEC, Part 2: Mississippi State was the first SEC team to win a game this season defeating Eastern Kentucky 76-66 in the 2K Sports Classic on Monday night. The Bulldogs were also the first to lose, falling 68-58 to the Akron Zips on Wednesday night. Both of those games were played on Mississippi State's homecourt.

Coach Impressed: McNeese State coach Dave Simmons said he was impressed with the home team. "My hat goes off to Auburn. They are a very good basketball team." He added, "This is a tough place to come into."

Foul Foul Shooting: Auburn struggled at the foul line hitting just 12-23 while McNeese made 21-27. The Tigers out-shot McNeese from three-point range making 6-18 to 3-18 for the Cowboys.

Margin Of Victory: It was Auburn's biggest win over a Division I opponent since defeating Alabama A&M by 35 points on Dec. 1, 2009. On Board: The Tigers enjoyed a 40-28 rebounding edge and had 13 turnovers, four fewer than the visitors.

In the House: Auburn announced on Friday that its four verbal commitments for the early signing period are now officially signed to play for the Tigers. The group includes: 7-0, 230 center Asauhn Dixon-Tatum from Chattahoochee Tech junior college in Marietta, Ga., and Anderson, Ind; 6-8 1/2, 215 power forward Jordon Granger from McCluer North High in Florissant, Mo.; 6-5, 218 shooting guard Jordan Price from Southwest Dekalb High in Decatur, Ga., and 6-4 small forward Shaquille Johnson from Milton High in Alpharetta, Ga. Dixon will have two years of eligibility at Auburn after redshirting one season at Grand Valley State University and playing one season for the Division II program in Michigan.

"I am excited about the class," Barbee said. "I always talk about when you take over a program the first two signing classes are the most important to lay the foundation of the type of players you recruit to fit your style and philosophy and all those things. Last year's class was really, really good, and this year's class is even better.

"I am excited that we got a combination of size and speed and skill, but most importantly, all four of them are great character kids that are going to be great members of the Auburn Family and represent this University in a positive light on and off the floor. We are fortunate to get all four early and are excited to have all four because them to go along with last year's recruiting class are going to be the foundation in the change of this program."

On Deck: The Tigers return to action at 7 p.m. on Monday night with a home game vs. Kennesaw State.

Box Score

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