Nov. 14, 2013
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- KT Harrell sat out last year, taking a redshirt season after transferring from Virginia.
He made up for lost time in Auburn basketball's season-opener by scoring a team-high 21 points in a 76-54 win over Nicholls State last week, and will be looking for more of the same in Friday's 7 p.m. game against Northwestern State in Auburn Arena.
Harrell had not played a college game since Dec. 21, 2011, but didn't show much rust when he scored his career high in points. Was that unexpected? Not to the players he's been practicing against since arriving at Auburn last year.
"It was big, but it wasn't a surprise to us," said forward Allen Payne. "We see it every day in practice, his offensive firepower and the way he is so aggressive going to the rim. It was good for him to get his feet wet that way, but it wasn't a surprise to anybody on this side."
It was a new look for the Tigers, with Harrell scoring and point guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen becoming the first Auburn freshman to start a season-opener since Earnest Ross in the 2009, and the first freshman point guard to start an opener since Quantez Robertson in 2005.
Shamsid-Deen scored five points and had four assists. Auburn's other new point guard, Malcolm Canada, scored seven points and had five rebounds. Shooting guard Chris Denson added 20 points.
"It makes the game easier when you can score the ball in the hole," said coach Tony Barbee. "It becomes very hard when you going into games having to hold people to 50 points to win. That becomes a grind. We still want to have that goal of holding people to 50 points or less but it makes it easier when you can score more than 50 like we did the other night. We didn't have everybody on but we still scored 76 points."
Auburn's big man, Asauhn Dixon-Tatum, liked the play of the guards around him.
''The production we got out of our guards was great. It is good that they can come in and get 20 points a game, but also the assists," said Dixon-Tatum.
Northwestern State, the pride of Natchitoches, La., played in the NCAA Tournament last year and is picked to win the Southland Conference this season.
Northwestern State knows about scoring. The Demons were second in the nation in scoring last year and beat Division III LeTourneau University 92-76 in their opener last Friday. They did that despite missing all 17 of their 3-point attempts.
"They are a talented team. They return a lot of experiences," Barbee said. "They went to the NCAA Tournament and gave Florida a very good game for 35 minutes."
All retired and active military personnel with a military ID will receive two complimentary tickets.
"It's a way of saying thank you to our service men and women for protecting our freedom that we all enjoy each and every day," Barbee said.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine