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February 20, 2013

Looking for answers

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AUBURN | Auburn Arena was a haven for the Tigers last year, when they posted a 14-2 record at home.

This season has been a different story.

Auburn has a 1-4 mark in its last five home Southeastern Conference games and a 7-7 record overall. To contrast, the top six teams in the SEC have a combined total of seven home losses this season.

WEDNESDAY'S GAME
Texas A&M (15-10, 5-7) at Auburn (9-16, 3-9)
WHEN: Wednesday, 7 o'clock CST
WHERE: Auburn Arena
ON THE AIR: TV - None; Radio - Auburn ISP Sports Network, XM Channel 200; Internet - ESPN3.com
THE LINE: Not yet available
RATINGS PERCENTAGE INDEX (out of 347): Texas A&M is No. 77; Auburn is No. 222
COACHES: Texas A&M - Billy Kennedy is 29-28 in his second season; Auburn -- Tony Barbee is 35-52 in his third season

PROJECTED TEXAS A&M STARTERS:
PG Fabyon Harris (5-11/Jr.), 11.6 ppg
G Elston Turner (6-5/Sr.), 16.5 ppg
G Alex Caruso (6-5, Fr.), 4.6 ppg
F Ray Turner (6-9/Sr.), 9.6 ppg
F Kourtney Roberson (6-9, Sr.), 6.8 ppg

PROJECTED AUBURN STARTERS:
G Chris Denson (6-2/Jr.), 12.3 ppg
PG Josh Wallace (5-10/Sr.), 3.8 ppg
G/F Shaq Johnson (6-5/Fr.), 5.2 ppg
F Allen Payne (6-6/Jr.), 8 ppg
C Rob Chubb (6-10/Sr.), 8.8 ppg

What happened?

"I don't know," coach Tony Barbee said after an 83-52 loss at home to Florida last Saturday.

He needs a quick solution. Auburn wraps a three-game home stand tonight against Texas A&M.

To be fair, venue hasn't been a big issue during Auburn's past ten games. It has dropped nine of 10 game in a stretch that has featured blow-out losses mixed with several close calls.

"We are still fighting and playing hard," Barbee said. "It's not like we have been blown out in all nine games. We had our opportunities against Ole Miss and at Georgia. Obviously this isn't horseshoes and hand grenades. We aren't here to get close. We are here to win. We have had our opportunities."

Auburn's home schedule concludes with games against three teams in the bottom half of the SEC: Texas A&M, Tennessee and Mississippi State. Barbee believes the losses have been a function of lax effort on the defensive end and an inability to shoot accurately on the other end. All of that stems from self-confidence.

"We have to figure out how to play these last six games with a little more confidence, especially given (we're) at home," Barbee said.

Texas A&M senior Elston Turner has none of those problems.

The 6-foot-5 guard transferred from the University of Washington after his sophomore year and has averaged double-figures in both of his years in College Station. In the Aggies' first season in the SEC, Elston ranks fourth in the conference in scoring, averaging 16.5 points per game, and has reached double-figures in 23 of 25 games this season.

Yet Elston is a volume shooter who tends to be streaky. He dropped 40 points when he led the Aggies to a victory at Kentucky in January. Still, his last three games are indicative of how his production directly affects the Aggies' wins and losses: 2-of-14 FG, 0-for-6 3PT (loss at Georgia); 13-of-20 FG, 7-for-10 3PT (win vs. Ole Miss); 7-of-19 FG, 0-for-5 3PT (loss at Vanderbilt).

"Texas A&M has one of the best backcourts in the conference with (Fabyon) Harris and Turner," Barbee said. "It is going to be a challenging home game. They are coming off a loss to Vanderbilt, so they are going to be looking to get back on track."

So is Auburn. And it starts in Auburn Arena.

"We are trying to get back on that winning track, and we have to start to take care of our home court," Barbee said.



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