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Auburn looks to come up big at Mississippi State

Jan. 21, 2014

Asauhn Dixon-Tatum is just hanging around for Auburn after a dunk (Anthony Hall photo)

By Charles Goldberg

AUBURN, Ala. -- Seven-footer Asauhn Dixon-Tatum hasn't put huge numbers in SEC play, but Auburn's big man says he's not backing down from the opportunity to help turn around the Tigers' basketball fortunes. 

"It's really not how big you are, it's how big the heart is," he says. "When it comes to how much heart, I know I've got a ton of it."

Auburn has been looking for more from its inside game all season, and will again Wednesday when the Tigers play at Mississippi State at 7 p.m. 

Dixon-Tatum is averaging 5.9 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. But the Tigers have been outrebounded 147-119 in SEC play, and that's one of the reasons why they'll travel to Starkville with an 8-7 overall record and an 0-4 mark in the conference. Mississippi State, which has beaten Auburn 12 of the last 13 years in Humphrey Coliseum, is 12-5 overall and 2-2 in the league.  

"The games that we lost were tough ones -- that we could have won, that we should have won. But we're not going to hold on to it because we're so close having the breakthrough. We can feel it," Dixon-Tatum said.  

Auburn has been a guard-heavy team all year. Either shooting guards Chris Denson or KT Harrell has led Auburn in scoring in all 15 games, or now freshman guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen has found his confidence and his shot.  

Denson leads the SEC in scoring at 19.5 points per game. Harrell is third at 18.9. Shamsid-Deen is averaging 8.5 points, and his assists-to-turnover ratio is an out-of-sight 24-to-6 over the last six games. 

Dixon-Tatum says he needs to contribute more, and says he can. Forward Allen Payne showed some more bounce with 11 points in Auburn's weekend loss to Florida as he comes back from a hamstring injury.  

Most of Dixon-Tatum's points have come from misses that hover a split second above the basket. 

"I like to get the second-chance points. That's what I find myself good at," he said. 

Auburn coach Tony Barbee isn't necessarily looking for a new leading scorer. But he wants more help, just like Florida found down the stretch last Saturday when it turned a 3-point game with a minute remaining into a 7-point victory. 

"We're not having enough guys having moments when the game is on the line," he says. "It doesn't necessarily mean your catalysts -- the Chris Densons and the KT Harrells -- it's going to be other guys, just like Florida. It wasn't their main guns that had the moments. It was their role players that stepped up in big spots." 

Barbee has asked his guards to go in and fight for rebounds, too, to help the inside game.

"We're at a severe deficit in conference play rebounding the ball," he said. "Going into league play, we were rebounding the ball at a pretty high clip against some pretty good competition. Since we've gotten in conference play, we have not been rebounding the ball well because we're not getting enough production out of the paint from those guys.  

"We don't have a dominant big, and that shows up on the defensive glass. Everybody has to help rebound."

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



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