Nov. 3, 2010
AUBURN -- Kenny Gabriel totaled game-highs of 15 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks while Josh Wallace added 10 points and nine assists to lead Auburn to a 79-66 victory over West Alabama in the exhibition opener in Auburn Arena on Wednesday.
Auburn scored the first eight points of the game and used an 11-0 run deep into the second half to take control of the game. Holding a 64-60 lead, Rob Chubb made a layup with six minutes remaining to start the decisive spurt, and Earnest Ross scored six points during the run that ended on his layup with 2:42 left and Auburn ahead 75-60.
"Overall, I liked what I saw," said Auburn head coach Tony Barbee. "What I really wanted to get out of this exhibition game was how hard we played and hard we competed. That's the kind of team that we have to be.
That has to be our identity. I thought we did that in spurts.
"Josh played well. He's a player that I always talk about. Whatever he is listed, 5-foot-9 in high heels? He plays like he is 6-foot-9. It's not how big you are, it's how big you play. When you get everybody playing with that type of fearlessness that Josh plays with, we will really advance as a team."
Andre Malone had 13 points and six rebounds while Ross added 12 points and four rebounds in 19 minutes and Chubb chipped in 10 points and eight boards. Auburn shot 50 percent from the field in the second half and went 14-of-19 (.737) from the foul line in the final period.
"Kenny was huge," Barbee said. "Kenny obviously did his job on the backboard getting 16 huge rebounds, three offensive ones he had. This is the type of performance that we need from him every night, but then he has to bring his friends along with him. We have to get some other guys help him rebound in the paint."
Auburn led 22-10 just over the midway point of the first half, but the Div. II Tigers of the Gulf South Conference outscored Auburn 15-1 to take their first lead of the game at 25-23 with seven minutes before intermission.
Auburn took the lead for good on a 13-4 run in the final 5:27 en route to a 40-31 halftime lead.
"At the beginning, we had a lot of butterflies because we're a young team, and we haven't had much experience at starting, coming off the bench and playing 20-25 minutes a game," said Gabriel. "I was just going out there expecting to play hard. When I see a ball up there on the rim, I've just got to get it because that's what my team needs from me and what I do in practice every day."
Auburn shot 43.9 percent from the field for the game, went 2-of-13 from 3-point range and 19-of-29 (.655) from the free throw line. West Alabama, which was led by Marino Thompson's 14 points and 12 rebounds, was limited to 34.2 percent shooting from the field and 25.0 percent from behind the arc.
"It was a lot of fun," said Wallace. "That's what you live for. That's what you practice for, going out there and playing and the student section did a good job. So, it was exciting. It's a good arena, good atmosphere."
The Tigers play their final exhibition game against Columbus State on Monday at 7 pm Central in Auburn Arena. Admission is free. Auburn plays host to UNC-Asheville in the season opener in the inaugural game in Auburn Arena on Nov. 12 at 8 pm Central.