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January 23, 2013

Auburn hoops report: Tigers “not playing real tough” in lackluster 73-61 loss at Vanderbilt

Photo by Todd Van Emst

Staff report

This was purportedly a statement game for the Auburn men’s basketball game.

If that’s the case, the Tigers have been relegated to the drawing board.

Auburn let Vanderbilt, the SEC’s doormat of a rebounding squad, dominate the Tigers on the glass as the Commodores sweated out a 73-61 victory Wednesday night at Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville.

Vandy has now beaten Auburn (8-10, 2-3 SEC) in seven straight meetings – the Tigers’ longest losing streak against any conference opponent not named Kentucky.

The culprit was rebounding – Vanderbilt (8-9, 2-3) entered the night with the league’s worst rebounding margin, yet the Commodores finished with a 37-29 advantage, including 11-6 on the offensive boards.

Before garbage time, Vanderbilt spent much of the game with a double-digit advantage in the department, grabbing its 11th offensive rebound before Auburn had its second.

“They’ve got guys going to the glass,” Auburn coach Tony Barbee said on his postgame radio appearance. “Right now, we’re not playing real tough and we don’t have an identity on either side of the floor.”

Senior center Rob Chubb’s statistics remain solid in SEC play, leading the Tigers Wednesday with 14 points and eight rebounds. His conference figures sit at 12.8 points and 8.8 rebounds, making 59 percent of his shots from the floor.

Frankie Sullivan also had 14 points, limited to 28 minutes by foul trouble.

A couple of desperation threes by freshman Brian Greene Jr. forced the Commodores to shoot free throws to close out Auburn, which has now lost three straight for the second time this year.

“Yeah, we had a chance. We’ve got to have more guys contributing,” Barbee said. “To win, and win on the road, you’ve got to have effective offensive players. We’re not playing with a lot of confidence.”

Junior guard Chris Denson, who averaged 15.2 points in his five full games sandwiched by an academic suspension and a foot injury, was once again ineffective scoring the basketball.

After 13 scoreless minutes Saturday against Kentucky, the Shaw product and aggressive slasher logged 18 minutes off the bench Wednesday, going 0-for-4 from the field – including just one shot inside the 3-point line – and finishing with one point.

“He’s telling us he’s healthy. He’s not looking like he’s healthy,” Barbee said, “so I need to figure out what to do with Chris.”

Vanderbilt leading scorer Kedren Johnson set the pace with 15 points, including 8-of-10 free throws to help Vandy seal the win. Freshman Kevin Bright, who previously played for a German junior national team, sank four of seven 3-point tries for 12 points off the Commodores’ bench.

The teams each shot an identical 9-for-24 from 3-point range. Both squads were struggling from the free-throw line, but Auburn was 8-for-9 while Vandy finished 24-of-30.

Auburn’s slate gets no easier, as it tries to snap the skid Saturday back home against No. 23-ranked Ole Miss (15-2, 4-0) at Auburn Arena. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. ET, televised by Fox Sports Net.

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