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Tigers ready to start the show

AUBURN - Tony Barbee's third Auburn basketball team has a core of solid veterans. It has a class of newcomers with plenty of flash and dash.

Freshman forward Shaquille Johnson/Todd Van Emst photo

They will all be on display tonight at Auburn Arena as the Tigers open their season against Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne. Tipoff time is set for 7.

Auburn's probable starting lineup includes four seniors - center Rob Chubb, point guard Josh Wallace, shooting guard Frankie Sullivan and forward Noel Johnson - and junior forward Allen Payne.

The running, leaping newcomers will come off the bench. High-flying freshman forward Shaq Johnson; freshman guards Jordan Price, Brian Greene Jr. and Jordon Granger; 7-foot junior Asauhn Dixon-Tatum and 6-foot-8 junior Shareif Adamu will play off the bench.

Barbee says his team has made progress through preseason practice an two exhibition victories. Tonight, it counts.

"You’re excited but probably every coach in the country is excited and every player in the country is excited," Barbee said. "Every coach is apprehensive, too, about the opener because you never know if you’re ready. You just never know. I mean you’ve gone through the exhibition games, through the scrimmages, through the long preseason practices, and it is always in the back of your mind wanting to know if your team is ready. I think we are.

"The veterans are ahead of everybody else. I think the new guys are getting more comfortable with how you prepare for an opponent and how you try to take advantage offensively and defensively. Especially in these early games, we want to be good at what we do. That’s the point we’re trying to make to the new guys.”

IPFW was 11-19 last season and finished eighth in the Summit League, but Barbee cautions the Mastodons, led by senior forward Frank Gaines, will be challenging. Gaines averaged 21.2 points and 5.9 rebounds last season. He was No. 9 nationally in scoring.

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