Kenny Gabriel scored 15 points and pulled down 16 rebounds to lead Auburn past West Alabama 79-66 Wednesday night in an exhibition game, the first game played in the Tigers' new Arena.
It was Tony Barbee's first win, albeit an unofficial one, as Auburn's new coach.
"At the beginning, we had a lot of butterflies because we're a young team, and we haven't had much experience at starting, coming off the bench and playing 20-25 minutes a game," said Gabriel.
Gabriel also had four blocks in the game to go with the 16 rebounds.
"Kenny was huge," said Barbee. "Kenny obviously did his job on the backboard getting 16 huge rebounds, three offensive ones. This is the type of performance that we need from him every night, but then he has to bring his friends along with him.
"We have to get some other guys help him rebound in the paint."
Auburn guard Josh Wallace had a game-high nine assists, and added 10 points, three rebounds and two steals.
"It was a lot of fun," said Wallace. "That's what you live for. That's what you practice for, going out there and playing."
Auburn led 40-31 at halftime, but West Alabama cut the Tigers' lead to three at 55-52 with 9:54 remaining in the game. Auburn, behind six points from Gabriel and six more from Earnest Ross, went on a 20-8 run to finish off UWA.
Wallace, a sophomore from Booker T. Washington in Pensacola, Fla., is listed as 5-foot-10, but Barbee said the point guard makes up for lack of height with extra effort.
"Josh played well. He's a player that I always talk about," Barbee said. "Whatever he is listed, 5-foot-9 in high heels? He plays like he is 6-foot-9.
"It's not how big you are, it's how big you play. When you get everybody playing with that type of fearlessness that Josh plays with, we will really advance as a team."
Auburn shot 43.9 percent, hitting just 2-of-13 from 3-point range. The Tigers connected on 19-of-29 (.655) free throw attempts. Auburn shot 50 percent from the field in the second half and went 14-of-19 (.737) from the foul line.
Andre Malone had 13 points and six rebounds. Ross finished with 12 points and four rebounds, and center Rob Chubb scored 10 points and had eight rebounds.
Auburn finishes up its two-game preseason schedule Monday when it hosts Columbus State at 7 pm C.T. Admission is free.
Auburn plays host to UNC-Asheville in the season opener in the inaugural game in Auburn Arena on Nov. 12 at 8 p.m. CT.