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November 5, 2012- - Auburn had fallen behind early to Division-II Georgia Southwestern State by as many as seven in the opening minutes before a play by two newcomers gave the Tigers a needed jolt of energy.
Junior college transfer Asauhn Dixon-Tatum, who averaged 5.4 blocks per game last season, swatted away Daryl Davis' layup attempt on a fast break, and freshman Jordan Granger threw down a two-handed dunk on the other end. The display of athleticism brought the Auburn Arena crowd to its feet for the first time since the opening tip and tied up the game at 22-22 with 5:28 remaining in the first half.
Auburn fell behind by two points immediately after, but regained the lead in the next minute and didn't trail again on their way to a 66-50 victory.
Even with the win, head coach Tony Barbee wasn't pleased with the effort that led to the Hurricanes' jumping out to an early lead.
"Every night out we want to make the other team match our intensity and how hard we play, and that wasn't the case for the second straight game," Barbee said. "Tonight it was against a little higher level opponent, and those guys were going at about 1000 miles an hour, and we were going at about 200. It's got to be the other way around."
Auburn's starting lineup contains three seniors and two juniors, something that Barbee noted should have prevented a second consecutive slow start.
"I said it to the staff the whole game, 'I'm glad this wasn't a 50 point blowout,'" Barbee said. "I was going down the bench saying I hope we lose this game, so we can learn from it. My staff said you're crazy. But we definitely needed this win, so I could get some of these guys' attention."
Dixon-Tatum appeared to be one of the players who had the light come on in the final exhibition game of the pre-season. On a night where starting center Rob Chubb had more fouls than points, the 7-0, 230 pound center stepped in and shot 4-8 from the field, finishing with 11 points, four rebounds and four blocks.
"I like that he was challenging shots on the defensive end," Barbee said. "That's what he does; he's a shot blocker. He's can play offensively too, and we've got to do a good job of getting him and Rob the ball in the post." "I'm always looking to score," Dixon-Tatum said. "Coach Barbee always told me that if I have the ball down there where they want me inside the paint, attack the basket."
Noel Johnson reached double digits in points with ten, but Barbee was more concerned about the 10 rebounds the senior grabbed coming off the bench.
"If he'll defend and rebound, Noel is a guy that will be in that rotation and get a lot of minutes," Barbee said. "He knows he's got to be better defensively. But he's a good rebounder. I'm not saying he's capable of getting 10 every night, but he's capable of being a better rebounder than he showed last year."
Johnson said Barbee told the entire team after the game that more rebounds means more playing time in a cramped playing rotation. Auburn had 11 players who logged double-digit minutes, and Barbee said the starting lineup will continue to change until the younger players get accustomed to playing at the college level.
"It's probably going to be a fluid situation all year long until some guys come along to establish themselves," Barbee said. "I know what I'm going to get from [Sullivan and Chubb]. But I've got to find out what I'm going to get from these young guys."
Auburn kicks off the regular season against IPFW at 7 p.m. this Friday at Auburn Arena.