Barbee Praises Seniors And Team's Attitude

As Auburn heads to Atlanta for the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament, the Tigers' head coach talks about what he likes about his team.

Auburn, Ala.--Tony Barbee gave high praise to his three seniors at the team's annual awards banquet on Monday evening and called the 2013-14 Auburn Tigers his favorite group he has worked with during his eight seasons as a college head college basketball coach.

Barbee and his Tigers will be trying to extend the season as they take on South Carolina this Wednesday evening in the opening round of the SEC Tournament at the Georgia Dome.

"I can't wait to get to Atlanta," said Barbee, who is wrapping up his fourth season as head coach of the Tigers after spending four years as head coach at UTEP where he was named Conference USA Coach of the Year in 2009-10 after leading the Miners to a 26-7 overall record and a 15-1 league record prior to taking over at Auburn.

"Teams that are still excited about playing this time of year have a chance to extend their seasons and that is the case with this team," he said. "We just had a great practice and that is exciting to me as their coach.

"I like how hard this team plays and how unselfish it is," Barbee added. "They play for each other, they enjoy being around each other and they have consistently worked hard in practice trying to get better.

"Of all the teams I have coached since I?have been a head coach, including my teams at UTEP, this is my favorite," Barbee said. "They come out every day with a great attitude ready to compete and they are all focused on having success as a team.

"The disappointing thing is that we have left so much on the table this year," he added, maintaining that the Tigers could easily have a better record than the 14-15 mark (6-12 SEC) they take into the conference tournament. "It hasn't been for a lack of effort," he said.

The head coach noted that he is proud of the team's seniors--guard Chris Denson, forward Allen Payne and center Asauhn Dixon-Tatum. Denson was named the team's Most Valuable Player at the ceremony on Monday night and on Tuesday the league's coaches named him to the All-SEC Second Team.

Payne won Auburn's Sonny Smith Leadership Award and Dixon-Tatum was named the Most Valuable Defensive Player.

Chris Denson leads the team in scoring at 19.2 points per game, which is second in the SEC.

Noting that he has enjoyed coaching Denson and Payne for four seasons and Dixon-Tatum for two years, Barbee said, "Each of those three are going to be great representatives of Auburn when they leave here."

Payne, Denson, Dixon-Tatum and their teammates will be representing Auburn for a third time this season against South Carolina, a team the Tigers defeated 79-74 at Columbia and 83-67 at Auburn Arena.

The winner of that 6 p.m. CDT Wednesday matchup moves into round two against Arkansas, a team that has an opening round bye.

Auburn Hoops Notes: Junior guard K.T. Harrell won the Paul Lambert/Tommy Joe Eagles Trophy presented to team's top all-around performer on and off the court...Freshman point guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen won the Playmaker of the Year Award, the Newcomer of the Year Award and the Bill Lynn Academic Achievement Award with his 3.71 GPA...Freshman center Matthew Atewe won the Sixth Man Award and freshman guard Dion Wade was named the Most Improved Player. Sophomore forward Jordon Granger won the Coach's Award for positive attitude and freshman forward Alex Thompson received the Outstanding Teammate Award.

K.T. Harrell is Auburn's second leading scorer averaging 18.4 points per contest.

After scoring 19 in Auburn's regular season finale win at Texas A&M, Denson needs eight points to pass Charles Barkley to move into 23rd place on Auburn's career scoring list. Denson goes into the tournament with 1,176 points. In Auburn's first game vs. South Carolina, Denson tied for the team scoring lead at 25 with Harrell. In the second game vs. the Gamecocks this season Denson led the Tigers in scoring with 22 points and Payne was next with 15...Dixon-Tatum has been named to the 2014 SEC Men's Basketball Community Service Team...South Carolina's Sindarius Thornwell, a 6-5 guard, was named SEC Freshman of the Week after averaging 14.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists in a loss to Florida and a win vs. Mississippi State to close the regular season. Thornwell scored four points, added four rebounds and had one assist in last game vs. Auburn while contributing eight points, nine assists and three rebounds vs. the Tigers in the first matchup...Guard Brenton Williams was the big scorer for the Gamecocks vs. the Tigers this year with 29 points in Columbia and 26 at Auburn.

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