Details were concealed, tucked away for only the team to know.
Auburn men’s basketball coach Tony Barbee would not name players. He would not provide specifics of a team meeting the Tigers claim turned their season around last week.
Just a general, overall review.
Auburn was preventing itself from reaching its potential as a team, Barbee said, and it had nothing to do with basketball. Off the court, players worried about their teammates’ roles more than their own.
Barbee said Auburn has defined roles for each player on its roster. Few, if any, were being filled.
“That was kind of the bottom base to it,” Barbee said. “Instead of guys worrying about just doing their jobs to the best of their ability, they were worried about what other guys’ jobs were on this team. Every team goes through that. Fortunately for us, we caught it early enough, so, hopefully, we can turn things around here.”
Against Ole Miss on Saturday, Barbee said he saw the team meeting pay off. Auburn lost, but it played like a different team compared to the group that showed up the previous two games in losses to Kentucky and Vanderbilt.
Against Ole Miss, there was no blowout. There was no colossal letdown.
The Tigers pushed their nationally ranked opponent to the brink, highlighted by Rebels guard Marshall Henderson’s eruption of frustration toward Auburn’s student section after the final buzzer.
“We were contributing to our own bad play with some things that had nothing to do with basketball,” Barbee said. “So we addressed those things, and it looks like it has had a positive effective with the practices that we had in the games leading up to Ole Miss, which led to a better performance. I think airing the team laundry, so to speak, has brought us back to being the type of team that we can be.
“Just like I told our guys, if you lose it’s got to be because the other team made plays or they did something to win the game, not that we contributed to our own loss. Or our own demise, is what I call it.”
On Wednesday, Auburn will try to show the way it fought against Ole Miss was no one-game fluke. The Tigers (8-11, 2-4) travel to Athens for a 6 p.m. tipoff against Georgia, their first of two road games this week.
The Bulldogs (8-11, 2-4) have played well recently with two wins in their past three games, including a surprising, mild upset at Texas A&M on Saturday. Still, it’s a game Auburn should win, especially if the Tigers are the team they believe they can be.
Junior guard Chris Denson went a step further.
Denson, a Columbus, Ga., native who tattooed “Georgia Made” over his upper body as a freshman, is one of five players in Auburn’s rotation who came from the Peach State. Georgia recruited Denson, but eventually picked another player. Denson hasn’t forgotten.
More than that, Denson knows it’s time for Auburn to turn around the results it’s been getting on the court. Mired in a four-game losing streak, this week is make or break for the Tigers.
Denson said Wednesday is a “must-win” game.
He’s confident Auburn will play like the team that showed up Saturday, not the group that was clueless offensively and worse on the boards a week ago against Vanderbilt. Similar to Barbee, he said last week’s team meeting was the spark his team needed.
“It just relieved everything,” Denson said. “Coming off the three straight losses, just to relieve the stress in the room. Every team goes through problems, and it’s bad that we’re going through it right now, but we’re picking it up and coming together as a team every day.”
Auburn (8-11, 2-4) at Georgia (8-11, 2-4)
When: Wednesday, 6 p.m.
Where: Stegeman Coliseum (10,523)
TV: CSS (35)
Radio: WKKR (97.7 FM)
Projected starters, Auburn: G Frankie Sullivan, 6-1, Sr. (16.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg); Josh Wallace, 5-10, Sr. (3.8 ppg, 2.2 apg); G Shaq Johnson, 6-5, Fr. (4.8 ppg, 3 rpg); F Allen Payne, 6-6, Jr. (8.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg); Rob Chubb, 6-10, Sr. (9.8 ppg, 7.9 rpg)
Projected starters, Georgia: G Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, 6-5, So. (17.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg); G Vincent Williams, 6-0, Sr. (4.9 ppg, 2.4 apg); F Donte’ Williams, 6-9, Jr. (5.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg); F Brandon Morris, 6-7 Fr. (4.2 ppg, 2.1 rpg); C John Florveus, 6-11, Sr. (2.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg)
Ryan Wood is the Auburn University Sports Beat Writer for the Opelika-Auburn News.
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