KT Harrell has been consistent for Auburn with back-to-back 21-point games (Kyle Taylor photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn guard Chris Denson had a career high in points and leads the SEC in scoring. KT Harrell is fourth in the league with back-to-back 21-point performances. Chris Griffin has a career high two games into the season. Allen Payne leads the SEC in assist-to-turnover ratio.
But Auburn coach Tony Barbee isn't thinking so much about his offense as he is his defense heading into Tuesday's 7 p.m. game against Jacksonville State in Auburn Arena.
The Tigers lost to Northwestern State 111-92 last time out after allowing 72 points in the second half.
"I think defensively, we've got to pressure the ball a lot more," Harrell said. "We have to communicate at a high level. And we have to finish plays defensively, as well. When we get a stop, we got to finish it with a defensive rebound."
Auburn seemed to be on its way to a victory against Northwestern State with a 14-point lead early in the second half. That's when Northwestern State started hitting.
"Going back and watching the tape, that team made some incredibly hard, contested shots that they didn't make the game before or the game after," Barbee said. "Our defense can always improve."
Auburn is 1-1 with games against Jacksonville State and Murray State in Auburn Arena. First up are the Gamecocks, who are 0-4.
"You've got an in-state team with a lot of kids who probably thought they should have been recruited by Auburn, so that's always a challenge to face a team like that," Barbee said. "Even though they're 0-4, they've been very competitive in every game. And so you've got a team that's going to come in with a lot of energy."
Auburn will try to counter that with Denson, who had 29 points, on a hot 12 field goals, against Northwestern State and leads the SEC by averaging 24.5 points per game. Harrell's at 21 points a game. Griffin came off the bench and provided a steady 13 points against the Demons. Payne has seven assists and one turnover.
Barbee's said Auburn's 92 points against Northwestern State should have been enough to win. Payne said simply scoring points won't be enough.
"We know today we're one of the top scoring teams in the country, and will be this year, but there's still no excuse for us to give up 111 points, especially at home," Payne said.
Barbee said the Tigers have plenty of time to recover from the loss.
"We got to. It's too early in the season," he said. "As disappointing as it was to lose at home, it's not like we lost to a bad team. That's a really good team."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine