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Auburn trying to put together three-game season sweep of South Carolina in SEC Tournament

By: Miranda Mason, Joel A. Erickson Email
By: Miranda Mason, Joel A. Erickson Email

AUBURN, Alabama -- Beyond the speculation surrounding Tony Barbee, Auburn has work to do in the Georgia Dome this week, beginning with its third game against South Carolina this season.

Beating the same team three times in the same season isn't supposed to be easy, the common wisdom goes.

Auburn's task is to find a way to knock off Frank Martin's South Carolina team at 6 p.m. in the Georgia Dome and advance to take on an Arkansas team that has designs on an NCAA Tournament bid.

"The thing about it is they know what we do, we know what they're going to do," Barbee said. "You can't reinvent the wheel at this point in the year. We are who we are, they are who (they) are. We've got to throw the ball up and see what happens."

Auburn (14-15, 6-12 SEC) hasn't won any of its three SEC Tournament games in Barbee's three seasons on the Plains, but the 12th-seeded Tigers enter this tournament in better position this time.

"Nothing that's happened the last three years has anything to do with what happens in the SEC tournament this year," Barbee said.

Auburn's got a little momentum.

Facing off against Texas A&M in the season finale, the Tigers erased a late deficit and came back to knock off the Aggies.

"It was big for us, real big," Tigers forward Allen Payne said. "Especially to get one on the road where teams don't win a lot down there in Texas A&M. I think it's a big confidence boost for us. I think we've got some decent seeding going into the tournament."

More importantly, as Barbee pointed out, the Tigers know exactly who they are heading into this SEC Tournament.

Denson, a second team All-SEC pick who averages 19.2 points per game, and KT Harrell, who averages 18.4 points per game, have been the driving forces behind Auburn's offense all season.

And when either struggled, as Denson did in late losses to Alabama and Tennessee, the Tigers' offense has gone through crippling scoring lulls.

"I was pressing, trying to get the scoring title," Denson said. "But I was playing free Texas A&M game and I expect to play free the whole SEC Tournament so I’m planning to do good."

Denson hasn't had any problems against South Carolina.

In two games against the Gamecocks -- a 79-74 win in Columbia, S.C. and an 83-67 blowout at home -- Denson averaged 23.5 points per game.

Now, the challenge is to put together a game like that in the tournament, where Auburn's key players have struggled in the past, a fact that Denson knows all too well after four years in the program.

When Auburn takes the floor, Denson and Harrell will try to get off to a fast start and put three years of bad SEC Tournament history in the rearview mirror at the same time.

"Attacking," Denson said. "They’re probably going to try to run a triangle and two, they did a little bit the second time we played them because me and KT hurt them the first time we played them."


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