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November 30, 2008

Tuberville going about business as usual

Tommy Tuberville phoned in his weekly teleconference from the road, but said despite no affirmation that his job is secure for next year (he’ll meet with the AD and school presdient sometime this week), he is treating this week like business as usual.

“I’m going like I’ve got a contract here,” Tuberville said. “I’m working and as I said last night there’s no doubt that we can get this thing turned back around. I didn’t turn into a bad coach overnight. I know this program better than anybody. I know what it takes. I know the type of people that you can get to come in. I know their strengths, I know their weaknesses and I’m fully committed to doing it. I’m going out and selling that.”

The Birmingham News reported today, citing insider Auburn sources, that athletic director Jay Jacobs told Tuberville three days before the Iron Bowl that he would be allowed to come back for 2009.

Is that true?

“No,” Tuberville said. “I have no clue where that came from.”

A time still has not been set for Tuberville’s meeting with Jacobs and school president Dr. Jay Gogue.

Tuberville’s focus will instead be on recruits who are waffling on their commitments.

“What I’m going to try to do is meet with guys that have shown any sense of possibly wondering whether I’m going to be here or not,” Tuberville said. “I want to hit those guys first. There’s probably four or five of those, but we won’t bring up any names.”

Tuberville also addressed his vacant offensive coordinator position, saying he wants to give whoever he hires the freedom to bring somebody with him if he wants.

“We’ve got to have an offensive coordinator that feels confident with what he’s doing,” Tuberville said. “If he’s got anybody that he thinks can help him put his program in, maybe that he worked with in the past. Sometimes that happens, sometimes it doesn’t. I’ve not been around too many coordinators that had people that they wanted to bring, but obviously, we’ve got to do something on offense and we’re going to. We’re going to get the problem solved. We’re going to get some consistency.”

Not being able to bring in any assistants is one of the many reasons that Tony Franklin was not able to make a successful transition from Troy, instead forced to work with Auburn’s long-tenured coaches. It was a source of friction throughout his 10 months on the Plains.

Tuberville denies the claims.

“A lot of people have said in the past that I force assistants on people,” Tuberville said. “That’s never happened. It’s totally up to the guys that come in.”

Tuberville has several coordinators in mind and said he’s almost whittled the list to four or five. He said he doesn’t have any frontrunners out of that group.

In other news:

  • LT Lee Ziemba is scheduled to have knee surgery Tuesday. The sophomore was clearly laboring on the knee the second half of the season. “He’s fought through it, and a lot of us never would have done that,” Tuberville said. “He’s a tough young man that wanted to play and wanted to go through the season. He has struggled — we all know that — mentally and physically. … It’s probably pretty tough. We don’t know what you go through in an injury like that in terms of pain in going through a game and putting pressure on that. He’s a tough young man.”
  • WR Chris Slaughter did not make the trip because he spent part of last week visiting his ill mother. He didn’t know enough of the game plan by the time he returned, so he did not travel.
  • Defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads‘ name has been linked to the vacant Utah State job. Rhoads, who got his masters from Utah State and began his coaching career as a graduate assistant there in 1989, declined to comment on the job after the Iron Bowl. Tuberville offered this Sunday: “There’s been some people call here about maybe interest. Paul and I were going to sit down and talk next week. … That’ll be up to him. He really likes it here. He’d have to decide whether he’d want to go to that situation. … If (the assistants) want head coaching jobs, I think that’s outstanding. I think that’s the reason we all get into this.”

Tuberville out recruiting, job status uncertain

The much-anticipated postseason review of Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville by athletic director Jay Gogue and school president Dr. Jay Gogue will take place sometime this week. When? Nobody’s saying. But at it, they will decide whether Tuberville returns for an 11th season on the Plains.

He made his pitch to return following Saturday’s 36-0 loss to Alabama.

“If I didn’t think I could do it, I would be the first one to tell the Auburn people,” Tuberville said. “After 10 years, I’m still fairly young, and it’s hard to take what we went through this year, but sometimes it makes you even hungrier to go through something like this. We might have needed a setback. We might have needed a readjustment, because we’ve been awfully good for a long time.”

The meeting won’t take place immediately. Tuberville has said he’ll be out recruiting today and Monday but be back in Auburn on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Players were unanimous in showing their support for Tuberville. Center Jason Bosley called the speculation about Tuberville’s job “stupid” and “ridiculous.”

“I don’t know where it comes from,” Bosley said of the rumors. “I mean, when you’re in adversity, the cream of the crop rises to the top and so do the turds. That’s just the way it is. And people start pointing fingers real quick and it’s easy to point fingers at the head coach, but it shouldn’t even be a topic of discussion right now.”

One condition for Tuberville’s might be that he has to clean house on the offensive side of the ball, hiring a new coaching staff. But he defended the offensive coaches Saturday night, taking the full weight of the blame for Auburn’s first sub-.500 season since 1999.

“I put them in a bind,” said Tuberville, referring to the Tony Franklin fiasco. “Everybody’s pointing fingers at them. ‘They’re not getting it done.’ I’m the one who put them in that situation. I’m the one who put their back to the wall. I thought the offensive staff did an excellent job overnight doing something to even give ourselves a chance. There were several games where we had a chance to win and we didn’t. We were in most of them. I just want to say that those guys really worked hard, did the best they could do in the circumstances, they worked long hours. They’ll take a lot of hits for all this but the buck stops with me. I’m the one that put them in that situation.”

Tuberville has said he wants to have an offensive coordinator in place by the beginning of January and does not seem in much of a rush to make a hire before that. He said his list of a dozen or so candidates mostly consists of coaches on teams who are going to bowl games and that he didn’t want to disrupt their seasons.

In the short-term, there’s been no move to alter the coaching staff.

“I’m getting on the road tomorrow (recruiting),” said Steve Ensminger, who served as the de facto offesnive coordinator once Franklin was fired. “I don’t know. I guess they’ll tell us something.”

Defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads, while not under fire like the offensive staff, had an interesting take on the coaching profession as a whole.

“We entered into the profession,” Rhoads said. “I came upon it honestly. I grew up the son of a coach. I was sitting on my mom’s lap as a baby and a pumpkin came through smashing through a window, so I know what it feels like to be a coach and a coach’s son and I’ve grown up with that. You don’t even worry about that, you don’t even listen to it. We’ve got to go recruit tomorrow. We’re going to go out and talk about Auburn and talk about 2009 and how special we’ve got a chance to be. We’ll do what we always do, go back to work.”

FInal: Alabama 36, Auburn 0

Eesh. That got out of hand quickly. I’ll have more tomorrow about the game and what happens now with head coach Tommy Tuberville. But right now, my ride is waiting.

Here’s tomorrow’s lede to tide you over.

By Andy Bitter
abitter@ledger-enquirer.com

TUSCALOOSA, Ala.Alabama put a definitive and resounding end to its six-year Iron Bowl drought Saturday, dismantling an overmatched Auburn 36-0 to snatch back state supremacy.

Attention quickly shifted to another pesky streak that Crimson Tide fans treat as an injustice: a nine-year stretch without an SEC championship.

“It’s the next game, but just on a bigger stage,” Alabama safety Rashad Johnson said of next week’s SEC title game against Florida, a de facto national semifinal that will guarantee the winner a spot in the BCS championship. “We are going to approach it like any other game.”

Alabama (12-0, 8-0 SEC) used a season-long recipe for success Saturday, hammering the run, passing at the right moments and playing lock-down defense in one of the most lopsided games in the 115-year history of the Iron Bowl.

Glen Coffee ran for 144 of Alabama’s 234 rushing yards, the sixth time this year the Tide has topped the 200-yard mark this season.

Defensively, the Crimson Tide suffocated the hapless Tigers to a season-low 170 yards of offense. Auburn didn’t reach the red zone once.

The Tigers (5-7, 2-6) hadn’t lost a game this badly since a 51-10 drubbing to Florida in 1996. They hadn’t been thumped in an Iron Bowl by this much since a 38-0 loss in 1962.

“We’re going to have to deal with this until next year,” cornerback Jerraud Powers said. “This is always going to be in our heads.”

November 29, 2008

End 3rd quarter: Alabama 29, Auburn 0

Well, the wheels fell of this one quickly.

Here’s the short version. Auburn fumble, Alabama touchdown. Auburn fumble, Alabama touchdown. Auburn three-and-out, Alabama touchdown.

Just like that, it’s a 29-0 game.

On the Tigers’ second play, senior running back Brad Lester, who was making his second appearance in the game, coughed up the ball in the face of a cornerback blitz. Alabama recovered. One play later, John Parker Wilson rolled out, drew the defense up by nearing the line of scrimmage and tossed a 39-yard touchdown pass to Nikita Stover. Auburn blocked the extra point, but still trailed 16-0.

Kodi Burns fumbled a snap on the next drive that Alabama recovered. The Tide moved right down the field before inserting 365-pound defensive tackle Terrence Cody at fullback near the goal line. He escorted Mark Ingram into the end zone to make it 22-0.

Ingram added a 14-yard run wjth 2:10 left.

Auburn could play until January and not score 29 points against Alabama.

So much for the idea that nobody would get blown out in this game.

Some telling third quarter stats:

  • Yards: Alabama 144, Auburn 29.
  • First downs: Alabama 7, Auburn 1.
  • Turnovers: Auburn 2, Alabama 0.
  • Points off turnovers: Alabama 12, Auburn 0.

I’m going to head down to the field in the fourth quarter, so there won’t be any kind of wrap-up until well after the game.

Halftime: Alabama 10, Auburn 0

Kudos to Nick Saban for actually getting the old timeout-before-the-field-goal trick to work. If not, we’d have a ballgame here.

Morgan Hull appeared to make a 40-yarder just before the half, but Saban called a timeout moments before the snap. On the second shot, Alabama blocked it. Huge momentum shift back for the Crimson Tide.

Other than that, the only thing you need to know about the first half was Glen Coffee, who ran for 99 yards on 11 carries, with a nifty 41-yard touchdown scamper up the sideline that gave the Crimson Tide a 10-0 lead.

Auburn doesn’t look beat, but it sure looks like it’s in rough shape.

Other notes, thoughts, etc:

  • Clinton Durst has five punts and is averaging 41.4 yards. And that’s with a shank that only went 20.
  • Auburn’s big-time weapon, its kick return unit, did next to nothing in the first half. The Tigers averaged 16.7 yards on three attempts, none going longer than 18 yards.
  • Kodi Burns has gotten better the last few weeks, but he still has no touch on the ball. He throws a 7-yard crossing pattern the way he throws a 30-yard post — 100 mph.
  • Passing stats: Burns — 5-for-14, 47 yards; John Parker Wilson – 5-for-10, 53 yards.
  • Total yards: Alabama 159, Auburn 96.
  • First downs: Alabama 8, Auburn 6.
  • Rushing stats: Burns — 7 carries, 16 yards; Mario Fannin – 6 carries, 14 yards; Team — 18 rushes, 49 yards.

Anyone want to put odds on Auburn scoring 11 points in the second half? I’ll wager it’s somewhere in the 30-to-1 range.

End 1st quarter: Alabama 3, Auburn, 0

Leigh Tiffin‘s 37-yard field goal as the first quarter clock expired is the difference so far.

Auburn missed a really good opportunity with field position early on. The Tigers started at the Alabama 49-yard line on their second drive, but went three-and-out. Auburn pinned ‘Bama deep, but the Crimson Tide got out of trouble with a few first downs.

Pretty impressive first quarter for ‘Bama running back Glen Coffee, who had 8 rushes for 41 yards. The Tide is going to feed him all day.

Just based on the tenor of the first quarter, this one doesn’t seem like it will be a blowout.

Other notes:

  • First quarter MVP for Auburn? Punter Clinton Durst, who pinned the Crimson Tide at the 7 and 5 on back-to-back punts.
  • I’ve been to quite a few football stadiums, but I don’t know if I’ve been at one as loud as this. I’ve got to admit, it’s quite impressive. Auburn looks like it’s having some trouble communicating audibles on the field, with quarterback Kodi Burns having to shout over everybody at the line. That’s a recipe for disaster.
  • Total yards: Alabama 81, Auburn 30.
  • Auburn RB Mario Fannin, who started: 6 rushes, 14 yards.

Auburn-Alabama pre-game (updated: 2:15 p.m.)

You’re looking LIVE at several angles of Bryant-Denny Stadium in hazy Tuscaloosa!

We survived the trip. Traffic wasn’t too terrible. The weather was. It rained the whole way, but eased up once we got to Tuscaloosa. It’s overcast and foggy here in the stadium, but it’s not raining and the field seems like it’s in good condition. That’s good news for Auburn. It did not want to get in a game where passing the ball was impossible.

I’ll update as we get closer to game time.


UPDATE (2:15 p.m.): No rain yet, but there is a lot of mist in the air. It’s certainly not going to be dry on the field.

Pre-game introductions said Brad Lester will start at running back for Auburn. Watching some warmups, it sure looked like it would be Mario Fannin. He was taking handoffs from Kodi Burns the most. Maybe Lester, a senior, gets a token start.

There are a lot of rumors out there about WR Chris Slaughter‘s status with the team. All I know is this: he’s not here today, dressed or otherwise.

I’ve got to hand it to Alabama — it knows how to montage a video highlight. Impressive pre-game stuff out here.

Men’s hoops: Dayton 60, Auburn 59, OT

From the sounds of it, Auburn came out on the losing end of a very strange game in the Chicago Invitational in Hoffman Estates, Ill., tonight.

Here were some of the high … err, lowlights:

  • Dayton went 0-for-24 on 3-pointers. Read that again. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of that happening in a basketball game before, let alone for the winning team.
  • The Flyers (5-0) weren’t the only ones who struggled from outside. The Tigers (3-2) were 0-for-12 from 3-point range in the first half. They managed to go 7-for-19 in the second half.
  • Auburn’s downfall was — surprise — rebounding and free throws. Dayton held a 60-43 advantage on the boards and the Tigers were 12-for-26 from the free throw line. Ouch. I feel like this is going to be a season-long problem.
  • DeWayne Reed scored 22 points to lead Auburn.
  • Auburn plays tonight at 5:30 p.m. EST against Northern Iowa in the final game of the tournament.

November 28, 2008

Iron Bowl matchups: a full breakdown

Back by popular (OK, my editor’s) demand is the position-by-position breakdown for tomorrow’s Iron Bowl.

I handled the Auburn side. Jason Galloway, who covers the Crimson Tide for the Ledger-Enquirer in Tuscaloosa, took care of Alabama.

Not surprisingly, most of the advantages came up Alabama’s way, although I wouldn’t have expected anything else since the No. 1 team in the country is involved.

We had some disagreement for who has the edge in the secondary and at special teams. I gave the secondary a push; Jason went with Auburn. I gave special teams to Auburn, despite the tenuous place-kicking situation; Jason went with Alabama. I can honestly see arguments that work for both sides.

Barners and Bammers feel free to weigh in:

Quarterback

  • Auburn: With six career starts now under his belt, sophomore Kodi Burns is slowly but surely putting things together. He nearly led the Tigers to a come-from-behind victory against Georgia, driving the team down the field in the final minute before things fizzled. He hasn’t thrown an interception in either of the last two games, going 28-for-50 for 309 yards. He’s also rushed for 186 yards and two touchdowns.
  • Alabama: As one of the few senior quarterbacks in the SEC, John Parker Wilson has been the leader in the Tide’s run to a perfect record. Now that he finally has a solid running game behind him, Wilson has not had to throw the ball as much as in previous years, allowing him to up his completion percentage while cutting down his interceptions.
  • Edge: Alabama

Running backs

  • Auburn: Sophomore Mario Fannin was impressive in his first career start against Georgia, with a 52-yard touchdown reception and a 35-yard touchdown run. He split carries with junior Ben Tate and will likely do so this week as well. Senior Brad Lester, who was dinged up and didn’t get in on offense against the Bulldogs, could get some carries as well.
  • Alabama: Multiple backs make up Alabama’s top-25 rushing attack. Starter Glen Coffee is second in the SEC with 1,091 yards on the ground this season, and true freshman Mark Ingram has nine rushing touchdowns, second among running backs in the SEC. Third-stringer Roy Upchurch is also a threat, averaging 6.0 yards per carry average.
  • Advantage: Alabama

Wide receivers/tight ends

  • Auburn: With Tommy Trott out for the season with a knee injury, Gabe McKenzie, who switched back to tight end two weeks ago after a three-month stint on the defensive line, will start in his place. Wide receiver Montez Billings played against Georgia despite having a broken nose, catching a season-best six passes for 66 yards.
  • Alabama: Highly-touted freshman wide out Julio Jones has emerged as the Tide’s go-to man in the passing game with 43 receptions this season. Although nobody has stepped up as a sure number two receiver, tight end Nick Walker has played a huge role in Alabama’s passing game, giving Wilson a big target to dump the ball off to.
  • Advantage: Alabama

Offensive line

  • Auburn: The shuffling has stopped and Auburn has shown some improvement running the ball. Against Georgia, the Tigers finished with 124 rushing yards, the second most they’ve had in an SEC game this season. Since Auburn installed more traditional offensive sets – using more tight ends and a fullback – it has allowed only three sacks in the last four games.
  • Alabama: This might be the Tide’s best group of linemen since Shaun Alexander was running behind Chris Samuels. With a potential top-5 NFL draft pick at left tackle in Andre Smith, experienced seniors at the center and right guard positions and an emerging star in junior Mike Johnson at left guard, the line has been the main reason for Alabama’s success in the running game this season.
  • Advantage: Alabama

Defensive line

  • Auburn: Auburn got all of its injured players back last week against Georgia but couldn’t provide much of a pass rush. The Tigers didn’t register a sack and had few hurries. They did manage to bottle up Knowshon Moreno after he ran wild in the first quarter, holding him to 42 yards during the final three. Defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks, however, didn’t have one tackle against the Bulldogs.
  • Alabama: Junior college transfer Terrence Cody anchors Alabama’s three-man front from the nose guard position. The 365-pound junior draws double and triple teams nearly every play, allowing linebackers and other defensive linemen like Brandon Deaderick and Bobby Greenwood, who each have 3.5 sacks this year, to break through and make plays.
  • Advantage: Alabama

Linebackers

  • Auburn: The Tigers got a boost last week from outside linebacker Merrill Johnson, who made six tackles after it was feared his season would be lost to a broken hand he suffered against Tennessee-Martin. The senior has 6½ tackles for a loss this season, most of the linebackers. Middle linebacker Josh Bynes has three interceptions, tops on the team.
  • Alabama: Sophomore middle linebacker Rolando McClain has made 77 tackles to lead the Tide’s rush defense, which ranks third nationally. The underrated Brandon Fanney has recorded 52 stops on the outside, and true freshman Dont’a Hightower has 55 tackles alongside McClain in the middle. Alabama’s front seven has proven to be one of the nation’s best this season.
  • Advantage: Alabama

Secondary

  • Auburn: Getting Jerraud Powers and Neiko Thorpe back at full speed gave Auburn’s defensive backs a boost against Georgia. The Tigers limited Matthew Stafford to 215 passing yards, but they still gave up two passing touchdowns, bringing their season total up to 17. Only Arkansas (20) has allowed more in the SEC.
    Alabama: Former walk-on running back Rashad Johnson has emerged as one of the top safeties in the country. Along with being second on the team with 68 tackles, the senior has five interceptions, returning two of them for touchdowns. His three picks were key in the Tide’s overtime victory at LSU. Kareem Jackson and Javier Arenas also make up a solid cornerback tandem.
  • Advantage: Push

Special teams

  • Auburn: The place-kicking situation is dire, with Wes Byrum battling a right knee injury and sophomore walk-on Morgan Hull expected to take his place. Hull’s first career kick came against Georgia, when he made an extra point. He has never attempted a field goal. The Tigers are solid on their other units, however, ranking fourth nationally in kick returns (26.1 yards) and 16th in net punting (37.6 yards).
  • Alabama: Aside from a small slump at the beginning of this month, kicker Leigh Tiffin has been fairly reliable on the year. The Tide’s greatest special teams asset, junior return man Javier Arenas, is always a threat to take it to the house. His five career punt return touchdowns are an Alabama record.
  • Advantage: Auburn

Coaching

  • Auburn: Tommy Tuberville is 7-2 all-time in Iron Bowls, owning the best winning percentage (.778) of any coach who has been involved in at least three of them. He’s also had a great string of success against highly-ranked teams, winning nine of his last 13 games against teams ranked in the Associated Press top 10. He even has one win against a No. 1 team, toppling top-ranked Florida 23-20 in 2001 on a late field goal.
  • Alabama: Nick Saban has lived up to the Alabama fans’ expectations in only his second year with the Tide. Trying to live up to the rich tradition that surrounds the city of Tuscaloosa, Saban has catapulted Alabama to the top of the college football rankings, only two wins away from a national championship birth.
  • Advantage: Alabama

Wild card

  • Auburn: Both teams have downplayed the significance of Auburn’s six-game winning streak in the series, but there has to be some psychological edge gained from having beaten your archrival every time since 2002. The Tigers have never lost in Tuscaloosa, owning a 6-0 record in the series since the teams stopped playing the game in Birmingham. If Auburn can get off to a quick start, putting any inkling out there that the streak might reach seven games, there’s no telling how an anxious Bryant-Denny Stadium crowd might react.
  • Alabama: Alabama has not beaten the Tigers since 2001, a six-game losing streak. After snapping streaks to LSU (five games) and Mississippi State (two games), the Tide is likely not looking ahead to next week’s SEC Championship Game. Alabama has some unfinished business to take care of before heading to Atlanta.
  • Advantage: Alabama

Three keys for Auburn

  1. Make John Parker Wilson beat you. Nobody has successfully put the game on Wilson’s shoulders this season. And while the senior is enjoying a fine season (he only has five interceptions), he has never been asked to win a game by himself. He hasn’t thrown for more than 219 yards in any game this season and has only thrown four touchdown passes since SEC play began, with none in the last four games.
  2. Get something – anything – on the ground. Alabama prides itself on stopping the run, giving up 75.1 yards per game, the third-best mark nationally. But the Tigers can’t abandon it altogether. The Crimson Tide defense is too good for a one-dimensional offense. Be it Kodi Burns on draws, Mario Fannin to the edge or Ben Tate up the middle, Auburn needs to establish something to be able to go to the air with any kind of success.
  3. Don’t get knocked out early. Alabama’s M.O. has been to jump to a quick lead, run the ball to work the clock and force the opponent to play catch-up. The Crimson Tide has outscored its opponents 120-20 in the first quarter alone. An early deficit is not Auburn’s friend. The Tigers need to hang around, silence what should be a rabid crowd and make Alabama feel the full weight of that No. 1 crown.

Three keys for Alabama

  1. Protect the football. Auburn’s strength is its defense. If Alabama is cautious and does not turn the ball over, it will force the Tigers sub-par offense to drive the length of the field to score points. Wilson must continue to make good decisions and not let a key interception swing the momentum in this rivalry game.
  2. Strike early. The only game in which Alabama has trailed a significant amount of time this year is the overtime victory at LSU. If the Tide lets Auburn jump out to an early lead, Alabama might have to rely less on the power running game that has produced its 11-0 record. The Tigers’ impressive pass defense is something the Tide will want to stay away from as much as possible.
  3. Dominate the line of scrimmage. Auburn has not proven it can be a threat in the passing game this season. If the Tide’s front seven can control the line of scrimmage, runners Brad Lester, Ben Tate and Mario Fannin will have no room to operate, and the Tigers’ offense will be unable to move. Offensively, Alabama’s line has dominated opponents all year, opening up plenty of running lanes for Coffee and Ingram.

Bitter’s take: There is nothing flashy about Alabama, a straightforward team led by a no-nonsense coach, so it would be hard to imagine a Crimson Tide group with so much at stake to come out flat. But Auburn has played better lately. The Tigers took a fight to Georgia two weeks ago, barely falling short in the final minute. There are seldom blowouts in this series (17 of the last 20 meetings have been decided by 10 points or less) and probably won’t be one this week, despite the teams’ vastly different records. Auburn will play for pride, but Alabama is too solid of a team with too much on the line to slip up in this one. Prediction: Alabama 20-10.

Jason’s take: Although this seems like a lopsided matchup, the Iron Bowl always finds a way to present a great game. Aside from sheer pride, both teams have much to play for — Alabama, of course, for its national title hopes and Auburn to become bowl eligible for the ninth straight year. In the end, however, the Tide will prove to be too much for Auburn to handle on the road and the Tigers’ one-dimensional offense will not be able to keep up. Prediction: Alabama 20-10.

Men’s hoops: Vot breaks nose, will still play tonight

The word from Chicago is that forward Korvotney Barber broke his nose during practice Wednesday. The senior will still play tonight in the Tigers’ game against Dayton in the Chicago Invitational but might have to wear a protective mask.

Barber leads the team with 14.5 ppg and is second with 5.0 rpg.

His 2007-08 season was cut short by a broken hand after 10 games.