AU tickets hot items on campus
By John Zenor
Associated Press Writer
AUBURN — Jeff Lebo doesn't need to stroll around campus or check with the ticket office to know there's finally some buzz about Auburn's basketball team.
"I can always tell by how many tickets I have left, and I don't have any," he said. "This is one of the few times I have not had any a couple of days before the game."
The Tigers (13-8, 3-3 Southeastern Conference) enter Saturday's game with No. 1 Florida fresh from a 24-point rout of 12th-ranked Alabama.
Lebo said that combination has created more excitement than he has seen in his two-plus years at Auburn.
It's also a rarity for a No. 1 team to visit Beard-Eaves Coliseum at Auburn. It has only happened three times before, all losses to Kentucky. The last time was an 88-73 defeat during the 1995-96 season.
Auburn is 1-7 all-time against top-ranked teams, the only win coming on John Caylor's 3-pointer with 10 seconds left at Kentucky in 1988.
"I think the student body is more excited than we are," Auburn forward Korvotney Barber said. "Everybody just wants us to beat the No. 1 ranked team."
Coincidentally, that '95-96 season was also the last time the Tigers posted two straight wins over Top 25 teams, until this year's victories over Alabama and then-No. 22 Tennessee. They haven't beaten three in a row in 19 years.
Getting the third win will hardly be easy. The defending national champion Gators (18-2, 5-0) are riding an 11-game winning streak.
But that recent success after an 0-for-15 stretch against ranked teams did leave the Tigers feeling they at least have a chance for a huge upset.
"It just gives us a lot of confidence that we can play against any team, ranked or unranked," Barber said. "If we play against every team like we did against Alabama, then we should get a lot of victories."
But, Lebo cautioned, "We're going to have to put this Alabama game behind us. It's over and finished and done with. It should have been over about an hour after the game. We've got to learn how to deal with that."
By "that," he means success and big wins, which have been scarce at Auburn in recent seasons. The Tigers have already eclipsed last year's dozen wins and are not only off to their best SEC start in five years, but are the only Western Division team without a losing league record.
"I've been very, very impressed with Auburn," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "We played Auburn last year very early in the SEC schedule.
"To see them now a year later and the growth and the strides they've made, is incredible. I think they're a very hungry basketball team."
Auburn's improved play has partly come with the emergence of forwards Quan Prowell and Josh Dollard, who were suspended for the early part of the season.
Both also like to shoot 3-pointers along with their inside play. Florida and Auburn also rank 1-2 in the league in assists. The Tigers dished out 22 against the Tide.
"I love the way their team plays," Donovan said. "Watching film, it's a pleasure for me to break down Jeff's team and watch his kids play. His style is unique and different. He has a lot of interchangeable parts, a lot of guys with speed and quickness who shoot the 3.
"Not very many teams play where just about half the shots are from beyond the 3-point line."
Lebo isn't making too much of Auburn's two upsets, and said he won't even bring up that early SEC West lead with his players. It's a start, though, for a program struggling to climb the league ladder. "I'm just happy that we won a couple of games and there's been some interest," he said. "You dream and you hope that it's going to happen."
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Save $84.50 a year off our newsstand price:
Subscribe today for only 38 cents a day!