Sloppy Auburn handles Kennesaw State
Tigers' shooting, turnovers and injury worry Lebo
By Ross Dellenger
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AUBURN — Just minutes after his team's first win of the season, Auburn's Jeff Lebo had plenty of concerns to address: free-throw shooting, turnovers, a poor finish and an injury to his only center.
But still, his Tigers met their primary objective.
"We found a way to win, which was the most important thing," the fourth-year coach said.
The Tigers made fewer than half of their free-throw attempts, had more turnovers than their opponent and saw a big lead slip away in a 74-62 win over Kennesaw State on Wednesday night in a less-than-rowdy Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum.
Frank Tolbert, Vot Barber and Rasheem Barrett each scored 12 points, while Quantez Robertson had 11 and a game-high eight rebounds.
But the focus afterward was not on beating the Atlantic Sun Conference's Kennesaw State, which won four non-league games last season. Instead, it surrounded the negatives in a surprisingly close game.
"We leave so much on the foul line, it's incredible," a frustrated Lebo said.
Auburn (1-1) made 40 percent of its free throws, hitting 9 of 22.
That's nothing new for the Tigers, who were 48 percent from the free-throw line in a 77-62 season-opening loss at Tulane on Friday night. They hit 56 percent in an exhibition win.
"We've just got to get in the gym and work harder, stay after practice or before practice," said Tolbert.
Tolbert's second bucket came in the form of a rim-shaking dunk that gave Auburn a 19-8 lead with 12 minutes left in the first half. Auburn increased that lead to 38-23 at the half and then held a 24-point cushion with 8:40 remaining in the game before the Owls (0-2) climbed back into it with five 3-pointers from Ronell Wooten during the final eight minutes. The last one pulled Kennesaw State to within 12 at 72-60 with 1:45 left.
It marked another aspect that worried Lebo.
"We kind of (got) fatigued," he said.
The Tigers committed 23 turnovers — 15 in the second half — compared to Kennesaw State's 18.
True freshman Boubacar Sylla, the talked-about 7-foot-1 center from Paris, got his first career points on a thunderous dunk with 8:29 left in the first half. But Sylla, while attempting a one-handed dunk midway through the second half, fell hard on his right side.
He limped to the bench and didn't return. Lebo said Sylla's right ankle was hurt on the play, but was unsure of his status, saying, "He will be evaluated."
Sylla saw nine minutes of time Tuesday night, finishing with three points and three rebounds. But keeping with the theme of the night, Lebo had concerns for the health of his one big man.
Lebo said Sylla will be needed in Auburn's next game against Alabama State in Montgomery on Friday night.
"We hope he is all right. He's going to have to be able to play for us," Lebo said. "Alabama State has a great big guy."
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