AUBURN — Mired in a six-game losing streak, Auburn held a 6 a.m. practice Monday to try and right a ship which has been sinking for weeks.
“I’ve got to do something to change the direction we’re going,” Tigers coach Tony Barbee said. “And I’ve got to get these guys’ attention. (Practice) was a tough one, it was a hard one, and it was bright and early because I’m not going to settle for anything less than these guys’ best.
“Right now, each team’s got a hold of the rope, and right now, we’re the team letting go. I’m not going to let us let go.”
Freshman forward Jordon Granger called Monday’s early practice a “wakeup call.”
In the current six-game skid, the second such streak in three seasons under Barbee, Auburn (8-13, 2-6 Southeastern Conference) has lost by eight, 22, 12, two, eight and 14.
The latest disaster, a 91-77 thumping at No. 17 Missouri on Saturday in a game not nearly as close as the final score indicated, added to a brutal three-week stretch for the Tigers.
“Everything’s not very good. And that’s on me,” Barbee said. “When I watch the tape (of the Missouri game), I told the guys I’m embarrassed to say I coach this team, and the majority of it is on me. My fault. I told them, I’m going to do my job to change it, and I need you guys to do your job and change, because it hasn’t been enough.”
Barbee’s frustration with his team’s performance did not fall on deaf ears. Senior guard Frankie Sullivan, who averages a team-best 16.5 points — fourth highest in the SEC — concurred with his coach’s assessment.
“I’m pretty sure that you would be embarrassed too if you lose six straight, and you have a team that has the talent and is one of the best recruiting classes you can put together, and then having seniors that are not producing,” said Sullivan, who scored a team-high 12 points in Saturday’s loss. “I’d be pretty embarrassed myself. I am embarrassed with myself. I don’t know about them, but I’m like coach. I’m embarrassed. I hate losing.
“You can’t go out and get embarrassed and be in the game the whole game and then at the end of the game be down by 20 or lose by 20. ... You can’t win ball games like that. You can’t be a basketball player and say that you’re a good basketball player or a good person period, and just give up on life or on the court like that. Once you quit on the court it transitions into life.”
Sullivan had a markedly better shooting night Saturday, going 4-for-9 from the field including 2-of-5 from 3-point range. He’s shot 37.5 percent (30-for-80) overall during the current losing stretch.
Sullivan said the “fight” the team has been lacking has to change. The Tigers are allowing an SEC-worst 72.6 points in conference games and Auburn opponents are shooting 45.5 percent, tied for the worst field goal percentage defense in the conference.
Barbee thought his squad was past some of the effort and intensity issues which were present earlier in the season but he has been proven wrong.
The next test comes Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Auburn Arena against rival Alabama (14-7, 6-2 SEC), which has won six of its past seven games.