Chris Denson has powered his way to the top of the SEC scoring list (USA Today photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. --
Hanging around only to lose in the final minutes makes for a frustrating SEC record, but Auburn point guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen says his Tigers haven't lost their faith.
Auburn will be looking for that resolve, a lot more rebounds, clutch free throws and some more points when they play No. 7 Florida in Auburn Arena at 3 p.m. Saturday.
Auburn is 8-6 overall and 0-3 in the SEC. Florida, winners of 15 of its last 16 games against Auburn, is 14-2 overall and 3-0 in the league. Shamsid-Deen said a turnaround Saturday "would be a signature win to give our team a lot of confidence going into the next couple of conference games. We have to go out there, play hard and see what happens."
Shamsid-Deen says Auburn's goals are clear cut.
"It is to get over this little hump we haven't been able to get over these past couple of games," he said. "We have been real close at the end. We just haven't been able to finish. We plan on keeping games close and at the end of games we plan on having a different outcome."
That's the message from coach Tony Barbee as well.
"These guys have been competitive, they have been competing, they have been pushing each other, they have been working hard in practice, and we have been fighting in the games."
Auburn's frustrating start to the SEC season includes a 3-point loss at Ole Miss, a 2-point loss at home to Missouri and an 11-point loss at Tennessee in a game that was as close as 5 points with 2 ½ minutes to play.
The Tigers' problems have been close to the basket. In just the last two games they've been outrebounded 86-56 and committed too many fouls, leading to a 54-23 made-free throw disparity.
Auburn is a guard-oriented team in scoring. Barbee wants more rebounds from Shamsid-Deen, KT Harrell and Chris Denson, too.
"Coach has put a big emphasis on that as well," Shamsid-Deen. "Four or five rebounds from me, six or seven from KT, six or seven from Chris to help our big guys down there while they are battling those beasts."
Those beasts have helped Florida to the top of the SEC defensive charts. The Gators are solid across the board. Florida has five players scoring in double figures.
"But above and beyond their offense is how tough-minded they are on the defensive end of the floor," Barbee said. "They are relentless on that end of the floor and it's what makes Florida what they are."
Auburn counters Florida's five double-digit scorers with two, the high-scoring combo of Denson and Harrell. But even their shots from the field can't overcome the team's troubles from the free throw line.
"I wish I had the explanation," Barbee said. "After 11 games of the non-conference we were the No. 1 free throw shooting team in the league. You look at the three conference games, we are now last. What happened? I wish I knew."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: