AUBURN - Last Saturday in Chicago, Auburn's basketball team pushed No. 12 Illinois to the limit before falling 81-79. Was the near-miss a sign of better days ahead? The answer could come tonight when defending ACC champion Florida State visits Auburn Arena.
Chris Denson says Auburn players gained confidence at Ilinois/Todd Van Emst photo
The Tigers (5-7) and the Seminoles (8-4) tip off at 6 p.m. The game will be televised by FSN South.
A week before coming oh so close to getting the biggest win in Tony Barbee's three seasons as head coach, the Tigers lost 74-67 at home to Winthrop in a game that shook players and coaches. Junior guard Chris Denson says they regained confidence at Illinois.
"That helped our confidence out a lot," Denson said. "Everyone was expecting us to get blown out. We showed great effort against Illinois. The Winthrop game was a wakeup call for us, and we played better against Illinois. We will continue to keep it going."
Barbee agrees. His players, he says, got a glimpse of what they can be.
"It gave the players a sense of confidence of being able to play against very talented Illinois team that is among the best teams in the country," Barbee said. "They have played extremely well early and won the Maui Invitational. That is the type of team we are going to face in the SEC. Playing them to two points isn't a moral victory, but it shows our guys that we can play with the best teams in the country."
Tonight's game is Auburn's last before the start of the Southeastern Conference season. LSU visits Auburn Arena next Wednesday.
Michael Snaer, a 6-foot-6 senior guard, leads the Seminoles with 16.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. Junior forward Okaro White averages 13.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per game.
"A year ago, they were one of the top defensive teams in the country, and they are again this year," Barbee said. "It is a tough challenge for Auburn, but we are coming off a very good game."
Senior guard Frankie Sullivan, who scored 21 points at Illinois, leads Auburn in scoring with 17.3 points per game. Denson averages 15.2 points per game. Senior center Rob Chubb averages 9.5 points and 7.2 rebounds.