Thursday Ramblings.

By Posted on: February 20th, 2014 in Baseball, Basketball, Football 12 Comments »
Bleak Midwinter

We’re in the bleak midwinter.
(Photo by Acid Reign.)

     War Eagle, everybody. A long offseason continues, but there is a bit of a light at the end of the tunnel. Snow and ice have given way to thunderstorms and short sleeves here in the Deep South. Auburn football players have begun the dreaded mat drills in their off-season workout regime. This means Spring Drills and A-Day are just around the corner!

     For me, this is a week for idle thinking, and I’ll share a few thoughts on Auburn-related items. First off, I guess I’ve got to weigh in on the “ten second hold-up” rule being proposed this spring by the NCAA Rules Committee. As we now know, this whole rule change is one being pushed by two dissatisfied, frightened SEC West coaches, and was not on the NCAA’s agenda. It turns out that Nick Saban invited himself to the the rules committee meeting, and was not a planned attendee. Bret Bielema claims to be representing the interests of American Football Coaches Association, but not a single other coach will admit to supporting Bielema. Hmmm…

     I don’t get it. The refs we have now can’t even tell if the game clock has run out, or needs one second put back on, without instant replay. They are now supposed to signal the ball, “ready for play,” but not really, for ten seconds? They are already holding up the ball when the offense substitutes, to allow the defense to follow suit. How much more time does the defense need? Offenses usually run a few shifts and motions before the snap, and probably a meer-cat to the sideline, anyway. I think it’s pretty rare for a team to snap it before ten seconds are up. Saban and Bielema have made themselves the poster children for “whiney,” and there’s no real benefit to them even if the absurd rule were to pass! I chuckled at the news this week that Saban was considering being involved in a Mercedes dealership in Birmingham. What, coaches? Lobbying for “American football,” and selling German cars? That’s rich! How many times did we watch those Saban “Ford Tough” commercials last fall? Let the buyer beware.

     Speaking of football, Auburn will start spring drills on March 18th. Checking the calendar, that’s a mere 26 days away! Can we wait that long? A-Day will be played at 2:00 PM Central Time on April 19th. Auburn’s A-Day this year will be televised on ESPN. Here’s hoping the Tigers can entertain another massive crowd like last year, with the nation watching!

     Even though Auburn’s once again mired with a losing SEC basketball record at 4-9, I do have to give embattled head coach Tony Barbee some credit. His guys have usually played hard, if not well. I finally got a chance to watch a complete game last Saturday against Mississippi State, and I’ve seen the highlights of last night’s close loss to number two Florida. The biggest negative about Barbee’s style is that his players seem to be continually daring the refs to call fouls. The MSU game was an absolute free-throw fest last Saturday. As the home team, Auburn got a few more calls, and pulled out a ten point victory.

     Against Florida, Barbee was whining about Auburn allowing 12 offensive rebounds. Coach, when you lob up as many long range shots as Auburn does, offensive rebounds will happen. That ball can kick out to anywhere when you miss a three point shot. What was painful about the loss to Florida was that Auburn had the game tied at 66 with 20 seconds left, and could have forced Florida to try to make a shot to win. It wasn’t a great night for Florida shooters, who only hit 40 percent from the floor. Instead, Auburn immediately was called for a blatant grab right in front of the ref, and sent the Gators to the free throw line. Following the successful Florida free throws, Auburn could not inbound the ball because all four guys on the floor took off, and there was no one to throw the ball inbounds to. Coaching, folks. Coaching. Twenty four games into the season, and Auburn can’t even inbound the ball with the game on the line.

     I think it’s going to be another long baseball season at Auburn, also. Auburn began their home season yesterday by being shelled by FCS opponent Alabama State, 9-3. ASU is actually a pretty good FCS team, and they played error-free ball. Not so for the Tigers. The game got away on two errors in the 8th, while the Hornets were hitting balls to the wall. What’s ominous is that these pitchers are going to be expected to get SEC batters out. Worse is that the Tiger team batting average stands at a meager .217 for the season. It’s going to be a battle to stay out of last place. About the only thing going for the Tigers is that this is head coach Sunny Galloway’s first year. But coach, talking trash about playing in Omaha while giving up 9 runs to Alabama State just makes you look bad. Man, the game has changed. I remember college baseball for the “clonk” of aluminum bats, and run totals in the teens for both teams, not .217 batting averages!

     On a lighter note, I had a chuckle yesterday evening when I read this piece from our old friend Jerry Hinnen, formerly of the Joe Cribbs Carwash and the War Eagle Reader. Apparently Oklahoma’s compliance department turned in a some secondary violations for three players for being provided “pasta in excess of the permissible amount allowed.” The players each were required to cough up $3.83 to be reinstated. There’s a “pasta allowance” in the NCAA rules? Who knew?

Auburn Basketball Breaks Streak Over Pachyderm’s back, Beat Bama 74 55! – (Malzahn receives Iron Bowl Trophy)

By Posted on: January 30th, 2014 in Basketball 8 Comments »
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            Auburn players celebrate win over Bama with the student section. (photo:Julie Bennett,al.com)

Chris Denson and KT Harrell scored a combined 55 points tonight to help Auburn end their losing streak and defeat arch rival Alabama. The two Auburn guards matched the total points scored by the Tide as the Tigers broke the streak over the Pachyderms backs with a 19 point blow out 74-55 victory.

Auburn has had five close SEC losses this season – all coming in the last couple of minutes. However, it didn’t come down to the last few minutes this time as the Tigers dominated Bama, jumping out to a 12-0 lead right out of the gate.

Chris Denson had a career evening pouring in 32 points on the night; and he and Harrell pulled down 18 rebounds to boot. Bama was never in the game. It was a truly great way to end the team’s losing streak, especially coming against the Tide.

The highlight of the night came when Football Coach Gus Malzahn along with the team received the Foy-ODK Sportsmanship Trophy for winning this year’s Iron Bowl. The team was given a standing ovation by a full house.

-gallery2zip-80228b4881d863e8jpg-34b423809e4f50a0 - Julie BennetGus Malzahn told the fans, “I’m here to tell you, this trophy, it’s going to be around here a while. War Eagle!” His speech was 38 seconds, which was 37 seconds longer than it took to beat Bama back in November.

Traditionally the SGA president of the losing school in the Iron Bowl is present to sing the winning school’s alma mater during the trophy presentation. However, Alabama’s SGA president, Jimmy Taylor, was said to not be able to make the trip due to weather conditions. Not sure about that one myself. But hey, I wouldn’t have wanted to be there either … not after the 34-28 gut wrenching loss Bama suffered two months ago today.

His absence didn’t take away from the celebration though as the fans and the players sang the fight song together.

The victory over the Pachyderms brings Auburn’s overall record to 9-9 and 1-6 in the SEC while the Tide fell to 9-11 overall and 3-4 in the league. What a great night … Our trophy comes back home and the Tide suffers an embarrassing 19 point whipping. You can’t ask for much more than that.

War Eagle!

Auburn Looks to Win Barbee’s 2nd Iron Bowl of Basketball

By Posted on: January 29th, 2014 in Basketball, Featured Article 12 Comments »
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Cam Newton celebrates Auburn Basketball’s last win over Alabama. (photo: Albert Cesare,Opelika Auburn News)

February 6th, 2013 Auburn’s leading scorer Frankie Sullivan missed his first 11 shots against Alabama and the Tigers trailed at the half 23-13. But Auburn overcame the deficit to win The Iron Bowl of Basketball 49-37.

It was the last time Auburn won an SEC game.

Tomorrow night Auburn will have a chance to repeat that winning performance as the two arch rivals will go at it at 7:30 p.m. in the Auburn Arena. The game was scheduled for tonight but inclement weather has caused it to be rescheduled for Thursday right after the Women’s 5:00 p.m. game against Texas A&M; it will be the second part of a doubleheader.

It’s been a long 12 months since Auburn celebrated their last conference victory. The Tigers (8-9, 0-6 SEC) have lost 21 of their last 22 regular-season SEC games including 16 games in a row – a school record. The SEC record for most consecutive conference losses is 22, set by Alabama between 1968-1970.

Despite having the SEC’s leading scoring tandem in Chris Denson and KT Harrell, Auburn has lost six straight this year. Although the Tigers have been competitive up to the last couple of minutes in most of those contest, they have yet to secure a conference victory.

For some reason, Auburn always seem to struggle at the foul line but the biggest problem, as of late, has been a failure of the rest of the team to help Denson and Harrell offensively. The bench in particularly has been almost absent in production with a low point of a 0 for 28 performance coming in a 82-74 loss to Mississippi State.

The Tigers really struggled in their last outing against Arkansas, shooting only 36 percent and losing by nineteen 86-67. With a third of the SEC season in the books, Coach Tony Barbee said his team needs to, “Play with confidence and focus and poise down the stretch.” That’s a hard thing to do when your 0-16 and haven’t been able to make a shot in the last couple of minutes of five close games.

ODKtrophyThe Tigers can’t do anything about those 16 loses but they can do something about ending the streak. They can beat Alabama!

The Tide (9-10- 3-3 SEC) comes into the game not much better off, currently tied with three other teams for fifth place in the Western Division. However, they did look good in overcoming a 19 point deficit to defeat LSU in their last outing.

The highlight of the night may come at half time as Coach Malzahn and the football players will be on hand to receive the Foy-ODK Sportsmanship Trophy for the football team’s spectacular win over Alabama in the Iron Bowl.

Hopefully that won’t be the only bright spot of the evening … Maybe the Tigers will end their losing streak with another win over the Tide.

Lets go Tigers! Beat Alabama!

Auburn Basketball Desperate For A Win – (Updated)

By Posted on: January 22nd, 2014 in Basketball, Featured Article 5 Comments »
-1d9129d0dbecd250- Julie bennett

                                                                                                 (photo: Julie Bennett. al.com)
 ”Any time you lose it’s disappointing, especially given how hard this team fights, and how hard they fight together,” Auburn Basketball Coach Tony Barbee after his team lost to No.7 Florida, Sunday, 68-61.

It’s no secret the Auburn Basketball Team has struggled the last couple of years. The Tigers have lost 19 of their last 20 SEC games.

Auburn began this year with a respectable 8-3 record but the start of the SEC season has seen the Tigers fall to 8 – 7. Although Auburn is winless in four SEC games, the Tigers have nonetheless played every game close, losing tight contest in the last couple of minutes.

The Tigers have not won an SEC game in 14 tries but they have come ever so close this year. They lost to Missouri by 2, to Ole Miss by 3, to Florida by 7, and trailed Tennessee by 5 with 2 ½ minutes to play before ultimately falling. 

Barbee said this week, “We’re not accepting losing.” That’s a good thing too, because the patience of the Auburn fan base is starting to wear thin. However, he still has a chance to lead his team to a breakout year. He still has an opportunity for this team to do something special. Yet, after four years, time is running out. If he is going to do something, it needs to happen this year.

On the positive side, Auburn does have the league’s leading scoring tandem in Chris Denson and KT Harrell. And the Tigers have fought hard in all four of their SEC losses. Each game seems to have the same story line: The Tigers play tough, keep the score close but can’t make the plays at the end when it matters.

Florida put the game away at the free throw line Sunday and escaped with a victory. While free throws have been a sore spot for Barbee teams, the real Achilles heel this year has been a deficit on the boards. Auburn is 12th in the SEC in rebounding and has been out dueled on the boards by 38 through four conference games. To turn things around, the Tigers have to drastically improve that stat in the remaining 14 games.

Auburn plays Arkansas next Tuesday in the 19,000 seat Bud Walton Arena, one of the toughest venues in college basketball. And the Tigers are on the road tonight to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs, a team Auburn has defeated only once in their  last 13 meetings.

Having watched the last four years of Coach Barbee’s teams, this writer believes there is a difference with this bunch. These Tigers stay focused, play with intensity, and keep battling all the way to the buzzer. They have been close in each game. Question is when will they get that first SEC win?

Senior forward Allen Payne says the Tigers can’t be satisfied with just battling teams. “At this point, it’s not good enough to do that. We’re desperate for a win right now.” Maybe that win will come tonight in Starkville.

Lets Go Tigers – Beat the Bulldogs!

Updated 1/22/14:
Auburn’s losing streak continued against Mississippi State as the Tigers fell to the Bulldogs 82-74 tonight in Starkville.

Auburn Women Basketball Give Bama a Beatdown (updated)

By Posted on: January 17th, 2014 in Basketball, Featured Article 6 Comments »
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                                                Tyrese Tanner led Tigers in scoring. (photo:al.com)

“We were really hurt last year that we lost to them. I’m glad my team came out here today and got this win. It was great,” Auburn senior guard, Tyrese Tanner said after the Auburn Women’s Basketball Team beat Alabama in Foster Auditorium. The Tide upset the Tigers last season in Tuscaloosa 71-61. But tonight Auburn got a little pay-back defeating the Tide 61-39.

Auburn Head Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said earlier this week that her Tigers would need to play well in this rivalry road game to be able to win. And boy did they. In a game that never was in doubt from the beginning, the Tigers jumped on the Tide early and took a 41-14 lead into the locker room at the half. Auburn blocked 10 shots and won the battle of the boards with 52-38 rebounds.

A focus for Auburn’s defense was Alabama’s leading scorer Daisha Simmons who came into the game averaging 15 points per outing. On this night she had zero points on 11 attempts and committed seven turnovers.

It was Tanner’s last game in Tuscaloosa and it will be one she will remember as the Auburn Senior poured in15 points, had nine rebounds, one assist, and three block shots.  Her younger sister, sophomore, Tra’Cee Tanner had 10 rebounds and put up14 points herself.

“I was just really proud of the young ladies for coming out in the first half and just setting the tone right away,” Williams-Flournoy said of the Tigers’ second road victory. The win improved Auburn’s record to 11-6 and 2-2 in the conference while Alabama fell to 8-9 and 1-3 in the SEC. 

It was definitely a good night for the Tigers. But then again anytime Auburn beats Alabama in any competition it’s a good night!  The ladies won’t have much time to celebrate though as they take on No.10 Kentucky Sunday at 1 p.m. in the Auburn Arena.

Go Tigers Beat the Wildcats!

Update (1/19/14):
Tyrese Tanner scored 28 points, to pass Blanche Alverson to No. 18 on Auburn’s all-time scoring list but it wasn’t enough as the Tigers lost a sqeaker to Kentucky 73-71.

Auburn Basketball Faces No.21 Missouri in SEC Home Opener

By Posted on: January 11th, 2014 in Basketball, Featured Article 15 Comments »
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                          Chris Denson is the SEC’s leading scorer. (photo: Spruce Derden,USA Today)

The Auburn Men’s Basketball team will be playing their SEC home opener today when the Orange and Blue Tigers take on the No.21 Mizzou Tigers (12-2) in the Auburn Arena. Auburn (8-4) will be looking for their first win over a Top 25 opponent since a victory over LSU in 2009.

Auburn had been on a four game winning streak before dropping their SEC road opener to Ole Miss 65-62 in Oxford Thursday. They played the Rebels close and had a chance to push it into overtime at the end but several 3-pointers missed the mark. The Tigers put up a good defense, however the usually efficient offense struggled and (with the exception of Denson) was unable to put up the big numbers. The sluggish offense coupled with 18 turnovers was just too much to overcome against a scrappy Ole Miss team that was missing leading scorer Marshall Henderson.

The Tigers face a much tougher opponent in today’s 1 p.m. matchup. Auburn will need the SEC’s leading offensive tandem of Chris Denson and KT Harrell to have a good day to come away with a victory. That and win the turnover battle.

Missouri has the conference’s second leading offensive tandem in guards Jordan Clarkson and Jabari Brown both of whom are averaging more than 18 points per game. At 6-5 and 6-6, the two have a height advantage over the  Auburn guards. Hopefully Auburn’s home court advantage will be the difference in giving the Orange and Blue Tigers their first conference win. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU and on line at ESPN3 as well as on the Auburn radio network.

Lets go Big Blue … Beat Mizzou!

Update:
Tigers lose another squeaker 70-68. Next up is a road trip to Tennessee on Wednesday.

KT Harrell Named SEC Basketball Player of the Week

By Posted on: December 23rd, 2013 in Basketball, News 1 Comment »
Clemson Auburn

                                                                                                                                (photo: Todd Van Ernst)
KT Harrell had a breakout performance Sunday scoring 29 points in the Tigers 77-67 victory over ACC member Boston College. His big game followed a Thursday night performance against Clemson where the Auburn junior put up 14 including the go ahead points with just over a minute left in that game.

As a result, Harrell was named the Player of the Week today by the South Eastern Conference. Head Coach Tony Barbee said, “I’ve been waiting for the breakout (from KT) and he’s played well all year.”

Harrell had to wait a year to make an impact after transferring in from Virginia. And he has made the most of the opportunity, averaging 18 points per game and partnering with senior Chris Denson to lead the team for a combined 38.3 points per game. For the week, he averaged close to 58 percent shooting and 21.5 points a game.

Congrats to KT and War Eagle!­­

Auburn Basketball “Has to Keep Fighting”

By Posted on: December 20th, 2013 in Basketball, Featured Article 2 Comments »
52b3a9f71dd72.image- Chris Denson

                                                                                                             (photo:Albert Cesare, auburn/opelika news)
“We fought all night, and I don’t think we did that in the last two games.” That’s the way Auburn Guard Chris Denson explained the Tigers 66-64 last second victory over Clemson Thursday. And the Auburn guard was right.

The Tigers were coming off two blowout losses to Iowa State and Illinois and facing the nation’s No.1 defense in Clemson. Hopefully the scrappy defensive fight put up by Auburn is a sign of things to come.

Defense will be the key this year for Auburn because the 5-3 Tigers know how to score. Denson, the SEC’s leading scorer, has combined with Guard KT Harrell to average 38.3 points per game. Auburn came into the game averaging 76 points per outing. The problem though is the Tigers have been giving up 77.0 points per game.

Head Coach Tony Barbee worked the Tigers hard in the team’s 10 day layoff and the results paid off. Auburn gave a tough gritty performance, matching the intensity of the No. 1 scoring defense and field-goal percentage defensive team in the country and came away with the ‘W.’

“We did a lot of looking in the mirror, especially after the last two games,” Denson said. “I guess we thought it was going to come easy, but winning is hard.”

The game saw Auburn leading by as much as 11 points in the early going only to have the purple Tigers tie it up at the half. Clemson came out in the second half and went up 43-34. Then Denson made a layup at 8:10 to give Auburn a 50-48 lead. From there it was a see-saw battle right down to the wire. Denson scored 19 points and Auburn hit 4 of 6 free throws over the final 43 seconds to cap the victory.

However, the game’s ending showed just how much Auburn had to fight for the win. Clemson had to call timeout with four and a half seconds left and Auburn leading by two. Then Auburn fouled Jordan Roper who missed both foul shots. Landry Nnoka hit a layup off an in-bounds pass with 2 seconds remaining to cut Auburn’s lead to 65-64.

With only one second left, Auburn forward Allen Payne was fouled. He came to the line and hit one of his two free throws. Clemson’s Rod Hall then threw a full-court shot to the other goal that bounced off the rim as the buzzer sounded. “You have to keep fighting,” said  Barbee. “That has to be our identity.”

Keep fighting Tigers. Never yield!

Editor’s note:
If you can make the next game, come out and support the Tigers at 1 p.m. Sunday as they take on Boston College in the Auburn Arena. Beat the BC Eagles!
Update:
K.T. Harrell had a breakout performance with 29 points to lead the Tigers in defeating Boston College 77-67. It was the Tigers second straight victory against an ACC team.