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Auburn basketball looks to be physical against Illinois

Dec. 7, 2013

Auburn's Matthew Atewe brought some physical play to his first game of the season (Anthony Hall photo)

By Charles Goldberg

ATLANTA -- Matthew Atewe played all of six minutes before fouling out in his first game of the season Monday, but coach Tony Barbee still liked what he saw. 

The Auburn forward played a physical in a game that otherwise didn't go the Tigers' way in a 99-70 loss at Iowa State. 

"I thought Matt looked good," Barbee said. "He played well. He is one of the guys that I thought, in limited minutes, played tough. With his size and strength, he has the type of mentality that will bring some of that to the floor for us." 

Auburn will be looking for size and strength, and better defense and more points, when it faces Illinois in neutral site game in Philips Arena here at 2 p.m., Central time, Sunday. 

Auburn is 4-2. Illinois is 7-1. 

Atewe missed the first five games with a foot injury. He banged around the Cyclones in his limited time. 

"He has to get his conditioning," Barbee said. "He still is not practicing 100 percent of the time because we want to be cautious with the type of injury he did have. It could take him a little while." 

Auburn is looking for a turnaround against a second straight quality opponent. Barbee said Illinois will be plenty tough without Auburn repeating the problems it had at Iowa State. 

"We can’t let our offense beat us. We took so many bad shots in that game that led to easy baskets for them," Barbee said. "The quality of our shots have to be important and knowing when and who we are trying to get them for. That was one of the things. The second, and probably most important one, is at the end of the day toughness matters. I thought they out-toughed us in a lot of aspects of the game. 

Iowa State dominated rebounding, at least when it mattered. Barbee said Auburn's center and big forwards "can’t get dominated the way that we got dominated in the paint rebounding from those positions. We don’t have an individual dominant rebounder, so we talked about collectively being a dominant rebounding team." 

Next problem: Illinois. 

"They are a good team," Barbee said. "The lost quite a bit from last year but they are a very good team. They have great size and really good guard play." 

Auburn is following up its football SEC Championship Game in Atlanta on Saturday with the basketball game nearby Sunday. 

"We have a lot of great fans and alumni in the Atlanta area and it’s good from that perspective," Barbee said. "Recruiting is such a hot-bed in Atlanta and it brings us up into that environment. And anytime you get a chance to take your kids on the road at a neutral site environment, even though it’s our home game, NCAA Tournament-type game, conference tournament-type game, it’s always good to get your kids playing in those types of atmospheres in the non-conference schedule."

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:



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