Despite some stumbles and bumbles along the way, Tony Barbee's third Auburn basketball team passed its first test with a 61-50 victory over IPFW in its home opener. But the second test will be much more challenging.
Frankie Sullivan scored 26 points in Auburn's season opener/Todd Van Emst photo
The Tigers take on Murray State tonight at 7 in the first round of the Charleston (S.C.) Classic at the TD Arena.
The Racers were one of college basketball's big stories last season, going 31-2 overall and 15-1 in the Ohio Valley Conference. They are led by preseason All-America point guard Isaiah Canaan.
"It is a team that has a lot of confidence and plays with a lot of confidence and swagger about them," Barbee said. "You can tell that they won 31 games last year. They play like it. They are a fast-paced team, are really good in transition and are a great offensive rebounding team."
Auburn will play either St. John's or host College of Charleston in the second round Friday. Also in the field are Boston College, Baylor, Colorado and Dayton. The Tigers will play again on Sunday.
Playing three games in four days, Barbee said, will be a challenge for his team, particularly for half a dozen newcomers.
“It is going to be something extremely new for all of our new guys," Barbee said. "Our veterans have been through that type of deal before, so they understand it. Because we are playing a lot of freshmen and new guys in our rotation, it will be something new. It is part of the learning process."
Rejuvenated senior guard Frankie Sullivan, finally fully recovered after undergoing knee surgery in 2010, scored 26 points to lead the Tigers to victory in their opener. Junior forward Allen Payne had 12 points and seven rebounds. Senior center Rob Chubb scored 10 points and had a career-high 15 rebounds. Veterans carried most of the load. The heralded newcomers played sparingly. They'll be needed more this weekend, Barbee said.
“We have a lot of work to be done, but it is early," Barbee said. "Our freshmen just have to pick it up and try to understand what we want to do. They work hard every day so they will come around."