December 3, 2007
By David Driver
For The Birmingham News
Used with permission
WASHINGTON - Auburn got a gift in its first game in the nation's capital, and it came from George Washington senior guard Maureece Rice in a 74-70 win by the Tigers in the BB&T Classic on Sunday.
All-Atlantic 10 player Rice, on a fast break, lobbed a pass to a teammate instead of taking the ball to the basket with his team trailing 67-65 with 2:15 to go. Auburn (4-1) knocked the ball off Rice and out of bounds, and Korvotney Barber scored at the other end with 1:40 left to make it 69-65.
"That was kind of shocking," Auburn's Frank Tolbert, who had a game-high 24 points, said of Rice's play. "Obviously it didn't work for them. That might have cost them the game."
"I was happy he made that decision," said Barber, who had 21 points and nine rebounds. Seconds later, Rice missed on a driving layup. The ball was batted out of bounds, and Auburn got possession with 58.2 seconds left and holding a 69-65 lead.
Quantez Robertson hit two free throws to make it 71-65, Tolbert hit a free throw to make it 72-68 with 42.2 to go and DeWayne Reed hit a free throw with 15.2 seconds left to seal the win for the Tigers. Reed had eight steals to tie a school record.
It was the first game in 13 days for the Tigers, who were playing with just seven scholarship players. Barber, Reed and Robertson played all 40 minutes.
"I thought we did a lot of good things," said Auburn head coach Jeff Lebo. "I didn't know how we would respond after the layoff. I thought we played awfully well."
Auburn was able to consistently pass the ball from the wing to Barber under the basket, and he responded by making eight of nine shots from the field and getting to the foul line 10 times.
"Korvotney was pretty acrobatic with some of his moves," Lebo said.
The Tigers, who did not shoot a free throw in the first half, forced 21 turnovers.
Auburn led 22-16 with 8:34 left in the first half, before GW went on a run to take a 37-30 lead with 3:57 before halftime. A basket by Tolbert in the closing minute of the first half gave Auburn a 38-37 lead at the break.
George Washington fell to 2-3 with its third straight loss. The team that won the Atlantic 10 conference tourney title last season also was playing without point guard Travis King, who will miss the rest of the season
Wynton Witherspoon had 17 points for GW, and Rod Diggs had 15.
Lebo said senior forward Quan Prowell, who has been serving a suspension, is expected back Wednesday against West Virginia.