Auburn's Allen Payne is on a roll heading into Tennessee State game (Kyle Taylor photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. --
Tony Barbee figures his Auburn basketball team shouldn't have a lot of trouble scoring game in, game out. But everything else? He's looking for players who are willing to play defense and rebound.
Allen Payne raised his hand with 10 rebounds in last Saturday's win over Murray State, and will be looking for more when the Tigers play Tennessee State at 7 Tuesday night in Auburn Arena. It's free admission for fans that bring a new unopened, unwrapped toy for Toys for Tots.
Payne and his teammates will continue to try to settle in their early-season roles. For Payne, it's being a rebounder when necessary.
"Any way that I can help this team," Payne said.
Chris Denson leads the SEC in scoring, averaging 21.8 points per game, and his 87 points over the first four games are the most points for an Auburn player to start a season since Wesley Person scored 96 and Aaron Swinson scored 95 to start the 1993-94 season. KT Harrell is averaging 18.8, giving Auburn the highest scoring teammates in the SEC.
Payne is still volunteering to do other things.
"I feel like with work I put into my body over the summer I can help this team more on the rebounding side," Payne said. " I am an undersized (big forward), kind of playing out of position, but rebounding is about what you have inside and I have a lot of aggression going to the boards."
The Tigers are 3-1. Tennessee State is 0-6. Records aside, it's a game in which Barbee will be looking for his players to continue to settle in for a long season.
"I think guys are getting comfortable in their roles and as we always talk about," Barbee said. "Make sure whatever your role is, do it better than anyone else can do it. We are getting close to that."
Barbee said he likes Payne's willingness to adjust.
"He knows what his role is for this team, but at the same time he is an effective offensive player," Barbee said. "For us to have the type of team offensively that I think we can be we need to have four, five, six guys in double figures. He is one of the guys I am looking at and he needs to be aggressive in his spots."
Auburn suffered a defensive breakdown in a 111-92 loss to Northwestern State, but has held its other three opponents to 54, 54 and 67 points. The last one was a win over Murray State.
"I think our defense was a lot better and our rebounding was a lot better," Payne said. "That team prides themselves on defense, just as we do, so to out-rebound them by 10 was big for us. I think we showed that we can pull together when things get hard. They made their runs and we stuck together.
"The past three years we may have lost that game but this year we never stopped believing and we pulled together."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: