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Post players come up big for Auburn

Kyle Davis Marco Killingsworth, Kyle Davis and Marquis Daniels give Tigers a powerful inside presence.

By KEITH NIEBUHR, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 23, 2003


TAMPA -- With his clutch shots and intense defensive pressure, Marquis Daniels was Auburn's main man in Friday's 65-63 overtime win over Saint Joseph's.

But contrary to popular belief, he did not act alone.

Daniels, who scored 25, had help, and as usual got much of it from frontline teammates Marco Killingsworth and Kyle Davis. Killingsworth, a power forward, had 15 points and seven rebounds against the Hawks; Davis, a center, had seven points, eight rebounds and four blocks.

"They're all very strong," Tigers guard Derrick Bird said.

Daniels, a 6-foot-6 senior from Orlando, leads Auburn in scoring (18.1), assists (3.4) and steals (2.3), and is second in rebounds (6.2). The Birmingham News' choice for Southeastern Conference player of the year is one of the country's most complete players.

As he showed against Saint Joseph's, he can make 3-pointers (he had three, including one with six seconds left in regulation) and inside shots (a dunk and reverse layup in the final minutes of overtime).

"He brings versatility to the game," Bird said. "He brings finesse to the game. He's kind of tough down low because he can get by you. His quickness helps out a lot."

The 6-7 Killingsworth, a sophomore, is Auburn's top rebounder (6.4) and second-leading scorer (13.7). A powerful inside presence, he shot a SEC-best 56 percent from the field in the regular season.

"Marco's a great post player," Davis said. "He's very fundamentally sound."

In high school, Killingsworth played shooting guard, small forward and power forward, and the Tigers have put that versatility to good use. He's a strong finisher inside whose shot of choice is a left hook. But he also has 13 3-pointers.

"He's a physical low-post player," Daniels said. "He goes to the boards hard. He plays good low-post defense. Or, he can step outside and make (3-pointers) as well. You can't find many guys with his size and his quickness."

Davis, a 6-10 junior, had three powerful dunks against Saint Joseph's, one off a teammate's miss. He also uses a soft jump hook on occasion.

Offense, however, isn't his forte.

Davis is Auburn's all-time leader in blocked shots (280) and ranks fourth in the SEC. His 118 blocks this season are a single-season Tigers record and rank fifth in the country.

"Man, it's amazing what he can do," Killingsworth said. "I've seen him do some crazy stuff. He has taken balls and thrown them out of the gym."

Each of the three knows his role, which adds to the chemistry. The finished product is a frontline that was among the SEC's best and will be a deciding factor in whether the Tigers reach the Sweet 16.

"It's about experience," Killingsworth said. "We know each other's moves. We'll go in the gym a lot and go one-on-one. We look after each other and help each other in different aspects of the game. And I think what makes us so tight is that we each have a different personality."

Wake Forest's formidable frontline will challenge Auburn. The Demon Deacons, led by forward Josh Howard, the Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year, have outrebounded 28 of 30 opponents and 19 by 10 or more.

As good as Daniels is, he can't beat Wake Forest alone.

He'll need help. Again.

"Wake Forest brings some pretty powerful frontcourt players and (Daniels, Davis and Killingsworth) have got to continue to play strong," Bird said. "But with those guys, we'll match up with them. Their strengths are going down low and being powerful, and I think that's going to be key to this game."

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