AUBURN - It really wasn't much of a game. Auburn's basketball team led Furman 35-20 at halftime and was never in danger after that. Junior Chris Denson, in his second game since regaining his eligibility, scored 17 points and got six rebounds. Freshman Jordan Price continued his torrid shooting and scored 14 points and the Tigers took won 64-50.
Auburn coach Tony Barbee says his team must get tougher and meaner/Todd Van Emst photo
All good things, third-year coach Tony Barbee said. But not enough.
On the inside, 6-foot-10 senior Rob Chubb and 7-foot junior Assauhn Dixon-Tatum got consistently to the rim. And they combined to go 5-of-18. That, Barbee said, is a sign of what the Tigers are lacking and what they must get as head toward Southeastern Conference play.
"It's all toughness," Barbee said. "At 7-foot and 6-10 when you get the ball five feet from the rim, obviously there's a skill level to it. Both of those guys are really skilled. The next part of that is having a meanness, having a toughness. That's my biggest gripe with this team. We don't embody that. We've talked from Day 1 that has to be our identity, how mean and tough and nasty we play.
"We have enough talent, but we're not an overly talented team. The great equalizer is how hard, how mean, how nasty and tough you play. We don't have that on a consistent basis and we don't have it from those two guys. That's why we miss so many bunnies."
The Tigers were plenty talented enough to take down Furman for their second consecutive victory, moving to 4-5 on the season. Furman fell to3 -6.
The Paladins couldn't deal with Denson, who was 7-for-10 from the floor and 3-4 from the foul line. He also handed out two assists. Price was 4-of-4 on 3-pointers, making him 8-for-8 over the past two games. Frankie Sullivan had 11 points and five assists. Dixon-Tatum had nine rebounds and Chubb eight.
Barbee wasn't complaining about any of that. He said it just wasn't enough.
"We have to mature as a team," Barbee said. "We have to mature. We have to get better. I thought we came out with really good defensive energy. I didn't think we were very sharp offensively to start the game. Defensively, we were really, really good.
"I thought we got content with the 15-point lead at halftime. That's how we came out and played. Like I told the guys, it's not about who we are playing. It's about us getting better. Obviously, we want to win regardless of who we are playing against, but this level is not going to be good enough against some of the teams we have coming up fairly soon."
The Tigers play Tennessee Tech on Tuesday and next Saturday, both at Auburn Arena. Then things get tough. They play Illinois in Chicago and return home to play Florida State before opening the SEC season against LSU at home on Jan. 9.