Auburn's Bowers brings energy, rebounds back to lineup

Jan 21, 2016 - 9:12 PM AUBURN, Ala. (AP) Cinmeon Bowers has brought energy, points and rebounds back to Auburn's starting lineup.

Bowers helped lead the Tigers (9-8, 3-3 Southeastern Conference) to back-to-back wins over No. 23 Kentucky and rival Alabama since reclaiming his starting job.

Coach Bruce Pearl benched the 6-foot-7, 250-pounder for seven games, a span when the Tigers went 2-5 and Bowers was inconsistent as a backup.

''Cim is a really good student, but you have to go to class if you want to play,'' Auburn associate head coach Chuck Person said. ''And Cim got the picture. BP will sacrifice wins for education and Cim fully understands that right now. ''

Person said Auburn coaches count showing up late to class as akin to missing class.

Bowers has supplied a significant boost since getting back in the starting lineup going into Saturday's game at Florida. He had 10 rebounds and eight points in an upset of the Wildcats, then posted a 20-point, 18-rebound performance against Alabama.

He had a four-game stretch off the bench where he averaged fewer than six points and six rebounds. Bowers has been much more effective since then.

''He's been really locked in,'' Pearl said. ''He's been really focused. He understood why he got out of the starting lineup and he understood why he's back in it.''

Pearl has also been playing Bowers exclusively at power forward instead of shifting him to center at times.

Bowers dropped 30 pounds in the offseason and has gotten much-needed help in the post from graduate transfer Tyler Harris and shot-blocking freshman Horace Spencer.

''It started on defense,'' Bowers said. ''Defensive rebounding. I don't really focus on my points. That's going to come regardless. I'm just locked in on defense and coach told me to go rebound the basketball.''

That's what he does best, especially on the defensive end. Bowers is averaging 11.5 points and 9.4 rebounds with eight double-doubles. He also likes to put the ball on the floor like a guard at times, with mixed results. Bowers did have some successful drives to the basket against Alabama after making two early 3-pointers.

''He's a tough cover, because you've got to make a decision on whether you're going to play your 5 (center) or your 4 (power forward) on him,'' Crimson Tide coach Avery Johnson said. ''We gave him a couple of different looks. More than anything, if he's making his 3-point shot, he's really tough to cover. He plays with a lot of energy. He goes after those rebounds.

''A lot of times we played great defense and then he gets a rebound. That deflates you a little bit.''

Bowers' presence can have the opposite effect on his teammates. If basketball jerseys had sleeves, he'd wear his emotions on them. Bowers often celebrates big plays by flexing his muscles or pounding his chest while facing the stands.

Auburn coaches are OK with that, as long as he's not directing it toward opposing players.

Bowers is a onetime Florida State signee who landed at junior college before coming to Auburn, which hadn't had such a forceful rebounder in years.

He grew up in Racine, Wisconsin, in what Person calls ''humble beginnings'' and is one of 22 siblings. Bowers is a frequent visitor to Person's office, chatting about far more than basketball. Person takes pride in the player's personal growth since the flamboyant big man arrived on campus.

''It's taken some time for the light to come on, but the light bulb's burning bright now,'' said Person, a former Auburn All-American and NBA player. ''Cim's understanding now what he has to do on and off the court.

''Because he's done the right thing off the court, the basketball court has become a lot easier.''






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