The UTEP Miners shot a blistering 65 percent from the field, including 71.4 percent from 3-point range in the Diamond Head Classic's Consolation game Sunday night, to defeat the Auburn Tigers 83-76.
Head Coach Tony Barbee almost sounded baffled by his team's performance in post game remarks,
"I am disappointed in my team. I have to do a better job with my guys. All we talked about and all we worked on, 80 percent of our practice has been defense and toughness and defense and toughness and discipline on that end of the floor. We are the most undisciplined defensive team I have ever coached, ever, and it bothers me. I have to do a better job."
However, when a team is on fire like the Miners were, it's a tall task to bring home the 'W.' Besides it wasn't like the Tigers were never in the game. There were nine lead changes and six ties as the Tigers battled all evening. Auburn was as close as four points with 90 seconds left in the game. A great Tiger defensive possession forced UTEP in to 3 point range at the end of the shot clock and Michael Perez made the howitzer, which basically sealed the deal for the Miners.
Auburn Forward Kenny Gabriel tied a career-high 24 points, including 19 in the second half and Josh Langford making his first start, scored a career high 16. Still, that wasn't enough as Center Robb Chubb struggled. The hero of the Hawaii game didn't make a shot all night. The Tigers have got to have production out of it's big man to be in a position to win the close ones.
While I'm glad Coach Barbee is disappointed, I believe he is doing a great job and is on the right track to building a solid program at Auburn.
Moreover, despite finishing 1-2 in the tournament, Auburn (8-3) has had it's best start in 12 years. The last time the Tigers started a season with eight wins was in 1999-2000. That year Auburn opened 8-1 and went on to a 23 -11 record and an NCAA Tournament appearance.
The Tigers will return home to play Georgia Southern Friday night in the Arena at 6 pm CST. The game will be televised by CSS. Go Tigers!