Auburn, Ala.--Allen Payne has improved his play in recent weeks and the junior forward says his Auburn basketball teammates have the potential to do the same thing.
Payne and the Tigers will be in Nashville on Wednesday night to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores with an opportunity to prove that Payne is correct. After winning their opening two games to start the SEC season the Tigers have lost back-to-back contests on the road in double overtime to Arkansas and at home to Kentucky.
Payne, a six-foot-six, left-hander from Cincinnati, is averaging 8.6 points and 4.9 rebounds per game while also doing a solid job on defense. In his last half dozen outings the forward is averaging 11.6 points. In that stretch Payne produced his first Auburn double-double with 10 points and a career-best 10 rebounds vs. Illinois.
I’m just starting to play a little more confident, a little more aggressively,” he says. “I needed to with Chris (Denson) and Jordan (Price) being out and even with them coming back I think for our team to be better I need to play better and at a more intense level on both ends of the court.”
Price and Denson returned from foot injuries on Saturday vs. Kentucky, but neither looked to be back to full speed.
Payne says that getting those guards back into the swing of things will be a big plus for the Tigers. “I think the sky is the limit for our team,” he says. “We have got the pieces that we need, especially with Chris and Jordan working themselves back into the rotation.
“We have got everything that we need to be one of the better teams in the SEC,” he adds. “I think we have just got to figure out how to put it all together.”
Tipoff for the Auburn-Vanderbilt game is 7 p.m. CST from Memorial Gym. The game will be available for viewing on ESPN3. Vandy is 7-9 overall and 1-3 in the SEC. Auburn is 8-9.
Allen can score both inside and on the perimeter.
“It’s a long season and we have got a while to go,” Payne says. “We just have to put it all together and that is what we’re trying to do in practice.We will start figuring it out here in these games.”
Payne notes that to him the bottom line as a member of Coach Tony Barbee’s team is finding a way to win consistently. The junior says that he wants to help his Tigers advance into postseason play. “It would mean a lot,” he says. “I’m not Frankie (Sullivan) or Jordan or those guys who won multiple state championships. I never won a state championship in high school.
“All I want to do is win and it will mean a lot to me if I’m able to get to the postseason at this level with the games meaning so much.”
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