Auburn forward named SEC player of the week

AUBURN----Auburn forward Kenny Gabriel was named SEC Player of the Week after averaging 20.0 points and 9.0 rebounds in both of the Tigers' double-digit comeback wins over Ole Miss and at LSU the last week of the regular season, the Southeastern Conference office announced on Monday. He shot 50 percent from the field, 42.9 percent from 3-point range and 81.3 percent (13-of-16) from the free throw line.

Gabriel notched his first career double-double against an SEC team and third overall with game-highs of 16 points and 11 rebounds at LSU on Saturday. He scored 10 straight points for Auburn to keep the Tigers within striking distance in the first half, trimming a 20-9 deficit to 27-21. He drilled a huge jumper just inside the free throw line with 1:45 remaining in the game to give Auburn a six point lead.

He scored a career-high 24 points on 3-of-5 three-pointers and had seven rebounds as Auburn erased a 20-point deficit to defeat Ole Miss 76-73 on March 2. It was the second largest comeback in school history.

"I am excited for Kenny, and it is a much-deserved honor for him for the way he played this past week," said Auburn head coach Tony Barbee. "What he has to realize is to believe in himself because he has the ability to be that type of player consistently over the course of the season. He hasn't this year. That has a lot to do with why we struggled because we needed him to play better because he has that ability. I'm excited that he is playing his best down the stretch, and this will be a big offseason for him to put in the work to physically improve his body so he can compete at that kind of level night-in and night-out in this league.

"It seems like with individual awards, they are also indicators of how your team is playing. If we went 0-2 last week, as well as he played, he doesn't get this award. It is a great indicator of your team's success as well."

Gabriel is Auburn's first SEC Player of the Week since Korvotney Barber was selected in the final week of the 2008-09 season. The 6-foot-8, 190-pound junior forward is averaging 10.4 points and 5.9 rebounds this season, but in Auburn's last four games, he is averaging both a team-high 15.0 points and 6.5 rebounds.

He has the fourth most improved scoring average in the SEC this year with a +7.6 increase from 2.8 ppg as a sophomore last year to 10.4 ppg this season.