AUBURN, Ala. -- When it comes to the play of Auburn’s big men, coach Tony Barbee is looking for a lot of improvement when the Tigers play at Mississippi State Wednesday night.
“We need more of everything,” Barbee said. “We are at a severe deficit in conference play in rebounding the ball. We had gone into league play rebounding the ball at a pretty high clip against some pretty good competition, Clemson being one of the best rebounding teams in the country. We out-rebounded them, I wouldn’t say fairly easy, but we out-rebounded them.
“Since we got into conference play we have not rebounded well because we are not getting enough production out of the paint from those guys and the main area is on the defensive backboard. We don’t have a dominant big and that shows up on the defensive glass.”
In particular, Barbee would like to see senior Asauhn Dixon-Tatum, Auburn’s 7-foot center, step up his play against the Bulldogs. ADT had zero points and just two rebounds as he battled foul trouble in a 68-61 loss to Florida Saturday.
Backup center Matthew Atewe had three points and five rebounds.
“More offensive rebounds, more offensive stick-backs,” Barbee said of what he wants from ADT. “When our guards attack and his man is stepping up and helping like the bigs are and it is dropped off to him, he has to catch and finish in traffic and not fumble the ball. He has to block more shots, he has to get more defensive rebounds.”
In four conference games, Auburn is being out-rebounded by an average of 36.8 to 29.8. The Tigers are 12th in the SEC in rebounding margin. In addition to Auburn’s big men stepping up, Barbee wants his guards to help out more on the boards including freshman Tahj Shamsid-Deen.
“Tahj has really stepped up and I think Allen Payne, as he is getting healthier, is starting to round back into form. We have to get more out of everybody, especially those guys on the front line,” he said.
Auburn, which is off to an 0-4 start in the conference and has lost 14 straight SEC games, plays a Mississippi State squad that’s 12-5 overall and 2-2 in the conference, and coming off an 81-72 overtime win over Texas A&M.
The Bulldogs are led by sophomore guard Craig Sword, who is averaging 15.0 points per game, and sophomore forward Gavin Ware, who is averaging 11.5 points and 8.9 rebounds.
“They are a team that is playing well and they play very well at home,” Barbee said. “They are scoring the ball at a very high clip and they are scoring a lot of points off of turnovers so you have to be strong against their all of their defenses. They get their turnovers not by pressing but out of being aggressive, attacking the basketball in the half court when you drive the ball. You have to be strong with it.”
Tipoff at Humphrey Coliseum is set for 7 p.m. CT and the game will be carried on ESPN3.