Vandy overcame a slow start and held off Auburn for an SEC hoops victory on Saturday night…
Barbee: Looking for Pre-Tournament Confidence
Auburn, Ala.--Two basketball teams going in opposite directions in recent weeks will meet on Saturday at the Auburn Arena as Tony Barbee's Tigers look to end a six-game losing streak as they face the Vanderbilt Commodores. Tipoff time is set for 8 p.m. CST for the SEC rematch. On January 23 in Nashville the Commodores defeated the Tigers 73-61. In that contest the home team hit 24-30 free throws while Auburn was 8-9 at the foul line. Vandy has won three of its last four games, including a 63-62 win over Georgia on Wednesday night. Kevin Bright's shot in the final second was the margin of victory for the Commodores in a game in which they trailed by as many as 17 points. With home games remaining vs. Vandy and Tennessee and the regular season finale on the road at Mississippi State, Barbee said the goal for his team is to build positive momentum for the SEC Tournament and avoid playing on the first day of the five-day event. The bottom four teams in the standings will play the opening day of the tournament in Nashville. "We want to try to find our identity again so we can go into the conference tournament feeling good about ourselves because anything can happen there," Barbee said. The Tigers go into Saturday night's game with a 9-19 overall record. They are 3-12 in league play. Mississippi State is in last place in the SEC with two wins while South Carolina has three league victories. Vandy and Texas A&M are 6-9 in the league. Barbee said he has told his team, "Let's make sure we aren't playing on Wednesday. We still have that opportunity with two home games left." The first round games in Nashville will match the No. 11 and No. 14 seeds along with the No. 12 and No. 13 seeds. The winners will advance to meet the sixth and fifth seeds on the second day of play at Bridgestone Arena. Talking about his team's morale after losing again, falling at Alabama 61-43 on Tuesday night, Barbee said, "It is still pretty good. I like the way the guys competed at Alabama. I thought they fought. Alabama shot under 40 percent, one of our goals, so I thought we guarded well enough to be in the game. We just didn't score well enough. We just missed too many easy opportunities we had available." The coach said after looking at the game tape the Tigers made just two of 18 shots that were layups or taken right next to basket. The Tigers finished the game shooting 30 percent overall and made just 2-15 threes. "I thought we took one bad three," Barbee said. "You have got to make plays, you have got to make shots." In the first game vs. Vandy the Tigers got 14 points apiece from Rob Chubb and Frankie Sullivan while Brian Greene scored 11. Chubb was Auburn's top rebounder with eight. Kedren Johnson, a 6-4 junior guard, led the Commodores with 15 points vs. the Tigers. For the season he is the team's top scorer at 13.8 points per contest. Vandy's only other player scoring in double figures is 6-9 junior forward Rod Odom at 10.3 per game. The rematch will be televised on ESPN2. ADT: Junior Asauhn Dixon-Tatum, a seven-foot center, said he is doing everything he can to add weight and strength. He started the season at 230 pounds, dropped to 225, but is back up to 230. Asauhn Dixon-Tatum is shown in action vs. Kentucky. The first-year Auburn player said the weight loss wasn't due to a lack of eating. "I will go home and eat until I can't eat no more and have tears running down my face not knowing if I can take another bite," he said. The center is averaging 3.8 points and 3.2 rebounds per game. Former Tigers: Auburn's 1962-63 team, which finished 18-4 overall and 10-4 in the SEC, will be honored on Saturday night. That team finished second in the league. Layton Johns led the Tigers that year with his averages of 15 points and 12.5 rebounds per game while earning first team All-SEC honors. John Blackwell, who averaged 13.9 points per game and 4.1 rebounds, was a third team All-SEC pick that season. Price Is Not Right: Freshman guard Jordan Price tied the SEC record with 11 consecutive makes on three-point shots in December. However, since returning from a foot injury he has struggled and is averaging making a three-pointer just once every two games. Jordan Price is shown in action early in the season. "When he got hurt it really set him back in his conditioning," Barbee said. "He gained some extra weight while he was out and he has had trouble getting it off and that is why his game is so sluggish. He doesn't have the pop back in his step. He doesn't have the confidence level because of that and now everything is a struggle." Price is averaging 5.3 points per game in a reserve role. "He had gotten in the best shape he has been in his whole life," Barbee noted, pointing out that was a big focus for Price in preseason drills. Barbee On Vandy: "They are a persistent team and they have been that way," the Auburn coach said. "Even though they are a middle of the pack team in our league right now, they are a team that has been persistent in every game. "Look at their last game, the Georgia game, when they were down 17 in the first half and came back to win the game. They stay persistent. They get really good guard play, obviously with Johnson leading the pack, and their big guys do a good job of spreading the floor and making you guard ball screens to try to create mismatches so they can get shots on that three-point line. That is where they get the majority of their offense from."
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