For Auburn to earn its first conference victory of the season at South Carolina on Saturday, it took an unexpected breakout performance from a player who originally thought he'd have to wear sneakers two sizes too small.
Center Rob Chubb left his basketball shoes at home, no small blunder considering his size 16 feet were too big to simply find new sneakers at a local sporting goods store. The size 14s Chubb borrowed from a teammate for shootaround were so cramped and uncomfortable that he worried he wouldn't be able to be effective in the game.
"My toes were curled up, I was tripping over myself," Chubb told the Opelika-Auburn News. "It was going to be an interesting game if these shoes didn't come through."
To Chubb's rescue came a South Carolina team manager kind enough to allow him to borrow a pair of his customary size 16 shoes. Chubb then proved the adage that no good deed goes unpunished, scoring a career-high 18 points on 8-of-17 shooting to lead Auburn to a stunning 79-64 victory over the Gamecocks.
"If I had known he didn't bring his shoes before that game, he wouldn't have started," Auburn coach Tony Barbee said on a teleconference on Monday. "I might not have played him. My assistant coaches did a good job of keeping that away from me."
It's a good thing for Auburn that Barbee didn't sit Chubb because Auburn desperately needed this victory. Many thought the Tigers were the worst major-conference team in college basketball this season after they lost to the likes of Samford, Campbell and Presbyterian in nonleague play and started 0-6 in the SEC.
After playing sparingly as a freshman last season, Chubb has shown promise as a sophomore, averaging 8.1 points and 4.1 boards in 22 minutes per game. Still, the 18-point outing against South Carolina was the first time he exceeded 10 points in SEC play.
"They left Rob down there 1-on-1 with very little help," Barbee said. "Rob is a developing player, his confidence is growing and he has the skill that if you leave him 1-on-1, he's good enough to beat you."