AUBURN — Something has to change and everything is on the table. Auburn coach Tony Barbee is exploring all of his options and who can blame him?
In the midst of a six-game losing streak, Auburn (8-13, 2-6 Southeastern Conference) has already had a team meeting to hash out “issues” of players focusing on the play of others rather than themselves after bad outings against Kentucky and Vanderbilt.
Talk of effort and energy surfaced again after Saturday’s pounding at the hands of then No. 17 Missouri so Barbee is pulling out all the stops, already holding Monday’s practice at 6 a.m.
Changes to the starting lineup and more playing time for younger players are both possible when the Tigers host rival Alabama (14-7, 6-2 SEC) today at 7 p.m. at Auburn Arena.
“Possible. That’s all being evaluated, day to day,” Barbee said of personnel changes. “I haven’t decided on anything in the lineup, because all spots are open.
“In the course of the game against Missouri our veteran players weren’t getting it done so I decided to get the younger guys a more extended look.”
Barbee called out his team and his leaders on Monday, saying his belief in his senior leaders was “fool’s gold” because the coaches are still the ones leading the team through tough times. Seniors Frankie Sullivan and Rob Chubb have started every game this season but against Missouri their minutes were cut drastically.
Sullivan played a season-low 16 minutes — his fewest since Dec. 15, 2010 against South Florida — though he scored a team-high 12 points on 4-for-9 including 2-for-5 from 3-point range on Saturday. This is the same go-to guy who has led the Tigers in scoring 12 games and turned in 45 and 48 minute outings against Rhode Island and Arkansas respectively. Chubb played 19 minutes — his second-lowest of the season — and scored 10 points.
In the absence of regular contributors, freshmen Brian Greene Jr. and Jordon Granger filled in. Greene Jr. scored nine points in 24 minutes, his second-most of the season, while Granger played a season-high 14 minutes.
“He plays with an energy, he plays with a level of toughness we haven’t been playing,” Barbee said of Granger. “Like I said, I’m searching right now and I’m searching for somebody who’s going bring us some energy, to provide us a lift. And he’s done that. Now I need some other guys to tag along with him and join his ride.”
Granger scored four points and had four rebounds Saturday. While he won’t blow anyone away with his contributions to this point, having his coach notice some of the intangibles he does add.
“I feel like I try to do the little things like offensive rebound, defend as hard as I can, bring energy when there’s no energy,” Granger said.<br>
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: Auburn Arena, Auburn
Records: Auburn (8-13, 2-6 SEC), No. 17 Alabama (14-7, 6-2)
On the air: TV — SEC Network/WSFA, Radio — WLWI- FM 92.3 or WMSP-AM 740
Auburn lineup: G Frankie Sullivan (6-1, Sr.), 16.5 ppg., 4.2 rpg., 2.9 apg.; G Shaq Johnson (6-5, Fr.), 4.8 ppg.; G Chris Denson (6-2, Jr.), 11.7 ppg.; F Allen Payne (6-6, Jr.), 8.3 ppg., 4.6 rpg.; C Rob Chubb (6-10, Sr.), 9.6 ppg., 7.5 rpg.
Alabama lineup: G Trevor Releford (6-0, Jr.), 15.3 ppg., 2.5 apg.; G Trevor Lacey (6-3, Soph.), 12.4 ppg., 4.0 rpg., 3.5 apg.; G Levi Randolph (6-5, Soph.), 8.0 ppg., 3.8 rpg.; G Rodney Cooper (6-6, Soph.), 10.7 ppg., 4.2 rpg.; C Moussa Gueye (7-0, Jr.), 1.5 ppg., 4.3 rpg.
Noteworthy: Auburn has lost six straight games for the second time in three seasons under coach Tony Barbee. The Tigers lost six straight to open SEC play in 2011. The last time Auburn lost seven straight in a single season was the 1993-94 season, dropping nine in a row and 10 in SEC play. . . Barbee is 0-4 against Alabama. . .The Tigers have averaged 60.2 points and are shooting 35.5 percent from the field, including 25 percent from 3-point range, in the last five games. . . Frankie Sullivan is fourth in the SEC with 16.5 points per game. Sullivan has shot just 35 percent including 21.2 percent from behind the arc in the last five games but was 4-for-9 in Saturday’s loss at Missouri. . . Tonight begins a stretch of four of five games at home, where the Tigers are 6-5. . . Auburn trails in the all-time series 89-56. . . Alabama has won six of its last seven.