BY AARON BRENNER | firstname.lastname@example.org
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The bench behind Auburn basketball coach Tony Barbee hasn’t been warm lately – mainly because he keeps rotating the bodies who occupy it.
Like a game of musical chairs, Auburn’s five on the floor has been tinkering at a rate of about one change per minute. Sometimes, it’s been due to foul trouble. Others, it’s just Barbee’s way of forcing effort and defensive intensity out of his stagnant squad, now defeated in 12 of its past 13 games.
Senior center Rob Chubb, whose 13 points led Auburn in its 61-43 loss Tuesday night at Alabama, was the first player to voice anything more than a minor degree of exasperation with the quick-switches.
“Somebody does something wrong on defense, you know, they deserve to come out,” Chubb said. “But at the same time, the quick transition of different players, different combinations, different talents and strengths, it kind of gets a little bit … it gets hard to get the chemistry together. Right as you start to get on a run, it’s 45 seconds, and then a change in the lineup.
“It’s not an excuse, but it’s something hard to deal with.”
Barbee subbed 41 times Tuesday night, despite saying afterward he was pleased with the Tigers’ overall effort. For comparison, Alabama’s Anthony Grant only subbed 22 times, not including a final-minute clearing of the bench for little-used players to finish the game.
Last Saturday, the Tigers logged 43 substitutions at Ole Miss, including an incredible 29 in the first half. Rebels coach Andy Kennedy was also fairly active, with 39 lineup changes in his team’s 88-55 rout.
In Auburn’s most recent home game, the subs scoreboard read Auburn 44, Texas A&M 21. The Aggies won 65-56.
“Guys aren’t playing well, so they’ve got to come out of the game,” Barbee reasoned after the A&M loss. “If they’re not going to defend, they come right out of the game. If they’re not going to dive on the floor for loose balls, they come out of the game. If they don’t pursue every rebound, they come out of the game. That’s why.”
Auburn has not kept the same starting five from game-to-game once during its six consecutive losses, a stretch which contains five different opening lineups. Junior forward Allen Payne is the only player to start all six games.