Listening to Tony Barbee following Auburn’s 31-point blowout to Florida Saturday, he sounded eerily familiar to another embattled Auburn coach.
“It is what it is. We’ve got to do our job of continuing to build, continuing to grow. I think we’ve got some really talented yet inexperienced guys in this program that we’ve got to get better. I’m really excited about the group we’ve got coming.
“So I think the future’s bright. You see us, where we’re starting and where the top of this league is, there’s a big gap, and we’re trying to close that gap.”
If you close your eyes you would swear the guy talking was wearing a white Under Armour pullover. The only question left for this Auburn basketball team is whether Barbee will follow Chizik out the door in March.
Watching the carnage left on the floor of Auburn Arena Saturday afternoon, it’s hard to believe that little more than a decade ago, Auburn competed and won SEC Championships.
Now, after losing nine of its last 10 games, Barbee is looking for excuses.
“It’s not like we’ve been blown out of those nine games,” Barbee said. “Obviously, it’s not horseshoes and hand grenades. We’re not here to get close. We’re here to win.
“But we’ve had our opportunities. Today we just ran into a buzzsaw.”
Since Cliff Ellis was run out of town in 2004, Auburn has consistently been among the worse in the SEC. For a school famous for its impatience with football coaches, the athletic department uncharacteristically looks the other way when it comes to men’s basketball.
For now, Auburn students still show up and more fans come to Auburn Arena than should considering the quality on the court. Under fire already for his handling of the football program, athletic director Jay Jacobs can ill afford fans defecting from Auburn Arena after the $92 million investment.
It’s hard to imagine Barbee getting a fourth season; then again Jacobs remaining on the job is even more unfathomable, and yet here he sits.
Barbee faces a must win situation on Wednesday, when Texas A&M comes to town. For Auburn, this is a winnable game. The Aggies are coming off a 63-56 loss to Vanderbilt and sit 5-7 in conference play.
With six games remaining, time is running out. When asked about his future on Saturday, Barbee refused to bite.
In her final regular season game against Alabama, Blanche Alverson became the 24th all-time career scorer in Auburn history with 1,109 points.
Alverson led the Tigers to a 70 – 53 victory over Bama Sunday afternoon. She had 22 points, 11 rebounds and six assists against the Tide.
The victory ended an eight-game losing streak and improved the Tigers record to 14-11 (3-9 SEC), while Alabama fell to 12-13 (2-10 SEC).
It was Alverson’s second double-double this season and the third of her career. She was one of three Tigers in double figures, as Hasina Muhammad added 15 points and Tyrese Tanner tossed in 14.
“Coach Flo had told us that we needed to step up, especially with (Najat Ouardad) being out,” said Alverson. “This could be the last time I play Alabama so it definitely meant a lot more. I definitely wanted to put the team on my shoulders and get out to a good start.”
And she did just that, her 11 rebounds and six assists led the team for the day.
Blanche has been a leader and an important part of the Tigers her entire career and it is particularly fitting that she was able to shine in her last regular season game against Auburn’s arch rival.
On January 16, 2013 18,000 plus Razorback fans were rocking Bud Walton Arena as the Hogs were locked in a tight game with the Auburn Tigers. Auburn was trying to reach their first 3 game SEC win streak in three years.
With five seconds on the clock and trailing 67-64, Auburn forward Allen Payne drained a 3-pointer to send the game into overtime. The Tigers then battled Arkansas into a second OT before giving up a disappointing loss.
Tonight at 8 pm CT the Tigers have a chance for a redo when the Razorbacks visit the Auburn Arena.
In their first meeting, Auburn out rebounded the Hogs and shot 50 percent from the floor, including 44 percent from 3-point range. They went 8-of-12 behind the arc in the second period alone. But the Tigers were only 7 of 17 from the foul line.
They can’t afford to leave those potential game-winning points at the stripe tonight. And more importantly, they can’t afford to lose the turnover ratio. Auburn committed 18 turnovers to Arkansas’ eight the first go round. It will be a tough assignment as the Razorbacks will be bringing their relentless full-court press.
However, if Auburn can continue the shooting ability they found in a tough physical loss to Kentucky last weekend, they will have a chance.
Before Saturday the Tigers were averaging just 24.8 percent of their 3-point shots for the past six games.
Against the Wildcats that improved significantly with Noel Johnsonhitting four 3-pointers for 12 points, Chris Denson with 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting, and Shaq Johnson putting in 10 points.
If the Tiger shooting continues where it left off Saturday, and if they can win the turn over battle, they’ll have a chance to hold serve at home and take an SEC victory from the Hogs.
UPDATE: Tigers led at half 38-35 but not able to close out in 2nd half, lose to Razorbacks 83-75.
For most of this basketball season, Auburn Coach Tony Barbee has been preaching to his team to show some fighting spirit. His Tigers gave the coach what he has been demanding today against Kentucky, the hottest team in the SEC.
Despite playing against the Defending National Champions in famed Rupp Arena, the Tigers fought and scraped all game long. They refused to be intimidated and kept it close till late in the contest when (this writer believes) the Refs effectively took them out of the game.
The Wildcats were frustrated by the aggressive, don’t back down attitude of the Tigers and started trying to play a game of intimidation. When Kentucky’s Archie Goodwin threw a forearm against Auburn’s Jordon Granger, he responded with a punch that got him ejected from the game. And while there’s no excuse for throwing punches, the scuffle showed the Cats, the Tigers were not going to be bullied.
The refs moved quickly to get a physical game under control, mainly by calling 29 fouls on the Tigers. Several players got into foul trouble and both of Auburn’s big men (Chubb and Dixon-Tatum) fouled out. Barbee said after the game he was proud of his team, “They executed the game plan that we put in as coaches to a tee. We had our chances. We missed way too many open shots, way too many shots at the basket, committed way too many silly fouls to put them in the one-and-one situations.”
The two teams were almost identical from the field, Auburn was 22-of-51 (.431) and Kentucky 20-of-46 (.435). The Tigers went 7-of-13 from 3-point range while the Wildcats were 6-of 21 (.286). Kentucky (17-6, 8-2 SEC) had the edge at the foul line 26-of-38 to 11-of-17. The Tigers were out rebounded by Kentucky 35-29.
Barbee’s bunch may have lost the game but the good thing is they may have finally found their mojo. If the Tigers (9-14, 3-7 SEC) can play with the same don’t back down attitude the rest of the way … this season will not be a total failure. It will definitely be something to build on for the future.
I guess the refs had to take control of the situation but calling 60 percent of the 50 fouls on Auburn (and the majority of those in the last 10 minutes) definitely helped the Wildcats pull away.
With the Tigers inside game taken away, Auburn had no chance against Kentucky’s Kyle Wiltjer or big man Willie Cauley-Stein and the Cats won by 10 (72-62). But they knew they had been in a real fight. As Barbee said in his post game remarks, “we weren’t gonna get bullied.”
Auburn returns to the Arena Wednesday to open a three game home stand against Arkansas at 8 pm CST on CSS.
Leading Auburn scorer Frankie Sullivan must have help tonight against the Bulldogs.
“We’re getting a lot of open looks from behind that line, and we’ve got some really good shooters who aren’t making them right now. Our shooters, who (have been) getting a lot of open shots, have to step up and make them,”
That’s the way Auburn Coach Tony Barbee explained what has sent the Tigers into a four game slide after looking so good to begin conference play.
Missed opportunities pretty much explains the SEC record to date (2-4). Even though guard Frankie Sullivan currently ranks third in the SEC in scoring (17ppg.), the team as a whole has not been able to make their open shots.
In SEC losses to Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Ole Miss, Auburn has struggled in the second half, averaging a lowly 34.5% shooting average. And their overall 3-point average for that three game stretch is worse than that (24%). The answer to the Tigers woes is simple: Sullivan has got to have some offensive help from his teammates.
The Tigers will have a chance to turn the team shooting statistic around tonight as they take on the Georgia Buldogs at 7p.m.EST at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens. The good news is that the Dawgs (also 2-4) have the lowest shooting average in the SEC (59%). Fans can catch the game on CSS & ESPN3.
Chris Denson really came through last weekend for the Tigers (after returning from a stress fracture) scoring 18 points in a close 63-61 loss to Ole Miss. If Sullivan can get that kind of help from a couple of his teammates, Auburn may be able to get their season back on the right track. If not … then the Tigers may be in for a very rough time the rest of the way.
Go Tigers, Beat dem Dawgs!
UPDATE: The theme of this article tells the story for another Auburn loss as the Tigers shooting woes continue. Tigers shot no more than 30% and lost 57-49. For a full game wrap up click here.
When Auburn Arena was constructed, school officials wanted to get the students closer to the action and more involved in the games. Mission accomplished. Saturday night’s heart breaking loss to Ole Miss has been overshadowed by what happened immediately following the game away from the court.
After a raucous back-and-fourth contest that had the arena rocking all-night, Ole Miss star Marshall Henderson headed to the student section to rub it in following the Rebel’s 63-61 win over Auburn.
What happened next is still up for debate. Many in attendance swear Henderson flipped off the Auburn students, even provoking one Auburn official to say so over Twitter. Video is inclusive, but there’s no question, Auburn students returned the favor.
Provoking them like he did, it’s a wonder Henderson got out of there with all his body parts. The rage in the eyes of the students is great. What’s even better is watching the older gentleman in the video react. Good stuff.
While it’s certainly not good to condone this behavior, it’s comforting to see Auburn students care so much about basketball.
If Auburn ever becomes consistently competitive, Auburn Arena is going to be one fun place to spend Saturday night…
Is there a bigger turd in all of college football than Nebraska’s Bo Pelini? Known for making a complete ass of himself on the sidelines during games, apparently he carries these traits into everyday life.
When Florida prep wide receiver Dominic Walker phoned Pelini Friday to tell him he was switching his commitment to Auburn, the Nebraska coach reacted like a 14 year-old child.
“They were [mad],” Walker told the Orlando Sentinel. “They were very mad. But I thought I had to call them like a real man should,” Walker said. “But yeah, they were mad. Coach Pelini said, ‘Best of luck, you’re going to need it.’”
A class act.
The Nebraska staff is no better. When Walker reached out to Cornhusker wide receivers coach Rich Fisher, the reaction was just as juvenile.
I wonder what Pelini’s reaction was back in December, when he got Walker to flip from Vanderbilt to Nebraska? Remember when that program used to be the gold standard in college football? Not anymore…
If you are still trying to decide who to pull for in Sunday’s Super Bowl, then may I suggest to you the San Francisco 49’ers. They have the only Auburn starter in the game with Carlos Rogers starting at cornerback.
Baltimore on the other hand, has two Alabama starters in the lineup with Terence Cody and Courtney Upshaw. They also have former Auburn player Josh Bynes as a reserve. Overall, the Ravens have 10 SEC players on its roster and the 49’ers have nine.
You could hear the frustration in Tony Barbee’s voice in his post game press conference, “I got out coached. They (Tigers) got out played.” It was evident he was disgusted with the performance of his basketball team against Kentucky.
Saturday night the Tigers appeared to be riding a wave of confidence going into the game. All the right things seem to be in place for a signature win. The team’s senior leadership has been fortified with a number of top shelf recruits and was playing in front of a packed home crowd in the newest venue in the SEC.
In addition, the perception was that unranked Kentucky (11-5, 2-1 SEC) was experiencing a down year while the Tigers (8-8, 2-1) were on the rise after taking No.12 Illinois to the wire, defeating South Carolina on the road, and playing in a double overtime game at Arkansas.
But perception does not always equal reality. For the 28th time in the last 29 meetings, the Tigers lost to the Wildcats. Auburn looked good enough in the first few minutes and were only trailing UK 32-27 at the half.
However, the Tigers reverted back to their old ways, wilting in the second half and losing 75-53, despite the support of an intense and rowdy home crowd.
To lose in double overtime on the road is one thing, to lose by 22 at home is quite another. One can make a point that the long road trip to Fayetteville took too much out of the team.
Whether true or not, it was embarrassing. It was the worst loss at home in the Barbee tenure. Yet what was more disappointing than the loss was the Tigers didn’t seem to fight like they have in recent weeks. Barbee said his guys played scared but added, “We can’t let this one loss affect what we have built in conference play.”
Question is, how will Auburn respond. Good teams find ways to absorb these kind of blows and move forward. However, at this juncture, this team has proven they are not at that level … yet.
Barbee’s third season began with a lot of optimism and while the Tigers didn’t play well in any phase of the game Saturday- they can still finish with a good season.
They get their chance at redemption tonight when they take on the Vanderbilt Commodores at 7 pm in a road game in Nashville. Fans can can catch the game on ESPN3.
Although Vandy has had its struggles, tonight wont be easy. The Commodores can play ball as they nearly beat Kentucky at home in a game that wasn’t decided till the final buzzer.
Saturday night is history, the Tigers can bounce back. But to do it, they’ll have to return to the scrappy fighting defense and aggressive offense they played before the UK game.
War Eagle – Beat the Dores! UPDATE: Vanderbilt made all of its treys while pulling out to a 16-point lead with 11 minutes to play and went on to beat the Tigers 73-61. Coach Barbee said, “Right now we are not playing really tough and we are not playing with a defensive identity and it is hurting us on both ends of the floor,” Auburn returns home to play Ole Miss Saturday at 7 pm CST.
Tonight the Auburn Tigers take on the Kentucky Wildcats in front of a sold out crowd in Auburn Arena. It will be a big night for Tiger fans on The Plains.
But it will also be a big night for the family of one of Auburn’s All-time greatest players, Mike Mitchell. In pregame ceremonies, his No.30 jersey will be officially retired and hung along side those of Chuck Person’s No. 45, Wesley Person’s No.11, Charles Barkley’s No.34, John Mengelt’s No.15 and Rex Frederick’s No.32.
Since he will be posthumously inducted into this exclusive Auburn fraternity, I thought I would share my tribute to Mitchell from the article that ran on June 15, 2011. Here is …
“One of the Greatest Basketball Players in Auburn University History” By AubTigerman Posted on: June 15th, 2011 in Basketball He was a tall skinny kid from Atlanta, Ga. who went on to become one of the greatest Basketball players in the history of Auburn University. Mike played ball for the Tigers in the mid to late seventies, completely rewriting the school’s record books.
When he left Auburn in 1978, Mike Mitchell was Auburn’s all time leading scorer and is still second on that list with 2,123 points trailing only ‘The Rifleman” Chuck Person’s 2,311. Even after 33 years his name sits at No.1 for the most career rebounds at 996.
He averaged close to 25 points per game his senior year, made All-American, and was a four time All-SEC selection. Dale Brown, LSU’s legendary coach once said, “I don’t know how to stop him. We considered setting up a howitzer out there to stop his shots.”
Mike went on to have a 22 year professional career averaging 20 points per game.
Drafted in the first round by Cleveland in ’78 he became an NBA All-Star. He was the Cavalier’s all-time leader in field goals made, scoring average and points scored in a season, until a kid who wasn’t even born yet (Lebaron James) broke his records 20 years later.
He finished four times in the top ten lists of the league’s leading scorers. “You had to keep somebody in front of him and behind him all the time because he was so quick and so strong.” said former Celtics star Quinn Buckner, “If he gets the ball down low, forget it; you can’t stop his shot.”
Mike’s best years though were probably with San Antonio where he led the Spurs to two consecutive Midwest Division titles. Mitchell averaged 26 points and 10 rebounds in the 1982-83 NBA Western Conference finals against the Lakers’ Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
He finished his career in Italy and left the game at a time when many thought he still had some more years left in him. But when he retired he was quoted as saying, “Sometimes in life, you need to make a change and invest more in others and in your family.”
And that’s what Mike did for the past decade. He came back to San Antonio and worked in the San Antonio Independent School District with at-risk kids.
Mike was good at teaching kids how to achieve and more importantly how to overcome obstacles. He had overcome his share in life including a tough childhood and later struggles with substance abuse.
But this past Thursday, Mike succumbed to his final and toughest obstacle. He passed away in San Antonio from a rare form of lung cancer after a two year battle with the dreaded disease.
Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich said, “He was a good man who cared deeply about his family and the community. As a basketball player, he was a star in Auburn, San Antonio, Cleveland, and Italy. At each stop in his distinguished career, he was a fan favorite thanks to his outstanding offensive skills and his humble, down-to-earth personality.”
Auburn Athletic Director Jay Jacobs added, “Our hearts and prayers go out to Mike’s family. We are extremely saddened at (his) passing …
He was one of the greatest basketball players in Auburn University history.”
Post Script: Anyone who ever saw Mike Mitchell play ball, knows how deserving he is of this recognition. In fact, it is an honor that is way over due. War Eagle Mike!