Auburn, Ala.--Tony Barbee’s Tigers need a victory over Georgia on Wednesday night to snap an SEC basketball losing streak and Auburn junior Chris Denson would like to be the catalyst to make that happen.
Denson, a six-foot-two lefty from Shaw High in Columbus, Ga., said it is always a big game to him playing against the home-state Bulldogs. He also said it is a big game for the entire team.
“Like Coach Barbee said, I think it’s a must-win coming off of four straight losses and the schedule is not getting any easier,” Denson said.
Tipoff for the game is set for 6 p.m. CST from Stegeman Coliseum in Athens with TV coverage on CSS. The Tigers and Bulldogs will bring identical records into the contest--8-11 overall and 2-4 in the SEC.
Auburn heads to Athens following a hard-fought 63-61 homecourt loss to nationally-ranked Ole Miss. With Kentavious Caldwell-Pope leading the Bulldogs with 22 points, Georgia surprised Texas A&M 59-52 on Saturday at College Station, Tex.
Caldwell-Pope is Georgia’s only player averaging more than eight points per contest. The 6-5, 205 sophomore guard is second in the SEC in scoring at 17.3 points per game and is also his team’s top rebounder with 6.4 per contest.
Caldwell-Pope is shown in action playing for the Bulldogs.
Denson led the Tigers in scoring vs. Ole Miss with 18 points off the bench in his third game back after missing four straight contests with a foot injury. In Denson’s first two games back he was obviously not his normal self as he was a combined 0-8 from the field vs. Kentucky and Vandy while scoring just one point. However, he made 6-9 field goals vs. Ole Miss.
Asked about his health, Denson said, “I’ve progressed a lot. That is coming from watching film from the Kentucky and Vanderbilt games. Like Coach said, I wasn’t the real Chris Denson and I’m almost there. I can’t really explode like I really want to, but I’m getting there every day. That will come with rehab.
“I’m starting to get it back--the burst and going past people,” he said, adding that a sign that he is not all the way back came vs. Ole Miss when he tried to dunk a rebound and could only get enough elevation for a tip-in.
In addition to Denson playing better vs. Ole Miss than he did the previous two games, the same thing is true of the team as a whole. The junior guard said a meeting after the disappointing performance at Vandy helped the Tigers. He noted that Barbee told the players that they didn’t show enough fight in the previous two games before facing Ole Miss.
Denson said that changed vs. the Rebels. “I think we fought all the way through the game against a Top 25 team,” he stated.
The guard said he isn’t sure why the Tigers didn’t play well vs. the Wildcats and Commodores, but added that he wasn’t surprised that changed on Saturday night. “We had practices before that and we had drills that really made us fight and come together as a team.”
Denson has been coming off the bench, but that could change on Wednesday. Barbee said he is considering a change in the starting lineup, but added he is not sure what the change or changes might be to match up vs. the Bulldogs.
Georgia’s starting lineup includes 6-9, 225 junior forward Donte Williams (5.5 points, 4.8 rebounds), 6-7, 205 freshman forward Brandon Morris (4.2 points, 2.1 rebounds), 6-11, 240 senior center John Florveus (2.8 points, 3.1 rebounds) and 6-0, 165 senior guard Vincent Williams (4.9 points, 2.4 assists).
Auburn took last year’s matchup between the two teams with a 59-51 victory at the Auburn Arena.
Game Notes: Barbee is 1-2 as Auburn's coach vs. the Bulldogs while UGA head coach Mark Fox has a 2-2 record vs. Auburn...Five Tigers played high school ball in the state of Georgia. In addition to Denson the group includes senior center Rob Chubb from McIntosh High in Peachtree City, freshman guard Shaquille Johnson from Milton High in Alpharetta, senior guard Noel Johnson from Fayetteville County High in Fayetteville and freshman guard Jordan Price from Southwest Dekalb High in Decatur...Senior guard Frankie Sullivan is trying to break out of a shooting slump. He is 13-39 (33.3 percent) in Auburn's last three games and has not shot better than 50 percent from the field since making 9-17 field goals vs. DePaul on November 30th.
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