AUBURN - It started in the summer of 2010, Tony Barbee's first as Auburn's basketball coach. Frankie Sullivan, the Tigers leading returning scorer, and post player Ty Armstrong suffered major knee injuries within days of each other.
Frankie Sullivan missed most of last season after suffering a major knee injury.
And it continues as Barbee nears the end of his second season.
Cedrick McAfee and Bernard Morena, two of his three signees, have lost their freshman season to injuries. Just as he seemed to be coming into his own, sophomore forward Josh Langford suffered a concussion and has missed eight games. Sophomore guards Varez Ward and Chris Denson are suspended.
Ward and Clemson transfer Noel Johnson have played through injuries. Sullivan has still not regained the physical prowess he had as a sophomore in 2010.
Throw in the departure of guard Andre Malone midway through last season and Earnest Ross when it was over.
Barbee said that Denson and Ward, who missed last Saturday's loss to Arkansas, did not practice Monday. He would not say whether they will play when the Tigers go to Alabama on Wednesday.
Add it all up and the Tigers are 14-14 and 4-10 as they prepare for their final regular-season road game. Alabama is 19-9, 8-6 and has won three straight games.
"It is what it is," Barbee said after Wednesday's practice. "It's sports. People get injured, things happen, guys get suspended. You go to the floor with who you've got and you expect guys to step up – guys who haven't been in the rotation who all the sudden get an opportunity. Those guys have to step up and perform. We're not getting that right now. It's frustrating, but you can't dwell on it."
Senior Kenny Gabriel, Auburn's leading scorer at 12.2 points per game and rebounder at 7.2 per game, is playing with a sore back after taking hard fall at Florida a week ago.
"He's a little bit better today," Barbee said. "He's still not 100 percent. That was a nasty spill he took versus Florida. He's fighting through the pain and trying to give us everything he has."
What no Tiger is showing, Barbee said, is a mean streak on the floor.
"We don't have a lot of mean guys," Barbee sad. "We don't have a lot of guys who are what you'd identify as a pit bull on the floor. As a coach and as a staff, we try to manufacture a lot of that. There's only so far you can go. You try to drill it in practice. A lot of that has to be instinctive and natural.
"We've got a lot of quite, reserved personalities. That is great off the floor. You want to be that high-character, reserved, quite guy that people respect. On the floor, you can have an alter ego. Nobody's fighting on the court. That's not going to happen in today's game. You can be a fake tough guy. We have a hard time (even) faking it."
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