Riding high


Auburn's Lucas Hargrove (4) celebrates with fans after the Tigers beat Alabama 81-57 Tuesday. The crowd will definitely be in a frenzy this afternoon when top-ranked Florida visits to take on Auburn.

The Associated Press
Published: Saturday, January 27, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 27, 2007 at 1:50 a.m.
Auburn, Ala.
Following Auburn's upset win against ranked Tennessee, third-year coach Jeff Lebo engaged in the time-honored tradition of rolling Toomer's Corner.
"I threw a few rolls up there," admitted Lebo, adding the toilet-paper decor to the trees surrounding the Auburn campus.
That Lebo was able to celebrate a significant home win was a sign of a program headed in a new direction. No. 1 Florida will face an Auburn team this afternoon that's already beaten Tennessee and No. 12 Alabama at Beard-Eaves Coliseum.
"They have a lot of interchangeable parts," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "I don't know if we've played a team where about half of their shots are from the 3-point line."
The Tigers displayed those parts Tuesday on national television during their impressive 24-point win over the Crimson Tide. Auburn dished 22 assists and scored 18 fast-break points against an Alabama team that couldn't keep up with the pace of the game.
Lebo said the return of starters Quan Prowell and Josh Dollard from early-season suspensions has helped provide chemistry and depth. Auburn ranks second in the SEC in assists, behind Florida.
"We're getting used to playing with each other," Lebo said. "Guys have become eligible for us. We've done better recently learning to play off of one another, coming off screens."
At 13-8, Auburn has already eclipsed its win total from last season.
"We needed to get over the hump and we did that at home by beating some ranked teams," Lebo said. "We have to be careful now about that. 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."
The recent strong play has created a buzz for today's game that's usually reserved for football. At 3-3 in the conference, Auburn is the surprise first-place team in the SEC West.
Auburn is facing its first No. 1 team at home since losing 88-73 to Kentucky during the 1995-96 season.
"I think the student body is more excited than we are," said Tigers sophomore forward Korvotney Barber, who is averaging 12.1 points off the bench. "Everybody just wants us to beat the No. 1-ranked team."
Barber said the recent wins against ranked teams have provided some confidence.
"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."
Part of what makes Auburn dangerous is that all five starters can run the floor and shoot from the perimeter. Starting center Prowell, at 6-foot-8, is shooting 43.5 percent (20-46) from 3-point range.
"Everyone on their team shoots 3s except for one guy," said Florida forward Corey Brewer. "They let them go and they get up and down the court, they're pushing. So we have to be ready to get back in transition defense."
Donovan said he has no reservations going up and down the floor with Auburn.
"I'd like for the game to go up and down the floor," Donovan said. "That's how we like to play."
Kevin Brockway can be reached at (352) 374-5054 or by e-mail at brockwk@gvillesun.com .

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