Auburn Opens SEC Play Tonight Against LSU
Frankie Sullivan is the SEC’s second leading scorer.
Auburn Basketball finished the first half of their season last Wednesday with what may have been their best performance of the Tony Barbee era. The Tigers defeated the ACC Defending Champions, Florida State 78-72.
And they did it with grit and determination. So many times in the past two years, the Tigers seem to have been very competitive in games only to not be able to finish out.
Not so this time. Down by 12 points with two of their best shooters out with injuries , the Tigers fought back to pull ahead and more importantly not allow the Seminoles back in to the game.
Coach Barbee said when his guys faced severe adversity in the first half that they had two choices. “You can tuck your head and walk away or you can fight.” The Tigers fought.
Florida State hit eight of its first 10 field goal attempts to start the game and go ahead by 12. With junior guard Chris Denson and freshman sensation Jordan Dennis out of the line up with injuries, leading Auburn scorer Frankie Sullivan poured in 24 points. And forward Allen Payne, had the best night of his career scoring a career-high 17 points with seven rebounds and three assists.
Perhaps more important to the victory was the Tigers didn’t wilt late. They took command of the game in the second half, forcing 20 Noles turnovers, and didn’t give up the lead. The final score made it look closer than it actually was but Auburn absolutely owned the final 15 minutes.
Barbee said, “One thing I’ve been preaching to these guys is whether you play the best offense or not, play the greatest defense, it’s about fighting, man,” Barbee said. “It’s about fighting.”
Hopefully this was the break through that Barbee has been looking for from his Tigers. If so, it couldn’t come at a better time with LSU coming to town tonight to open SEC play at the Arena.
LSU (9-2) is a much improved team over last year’s edition. While the purple Tigers scored 70 points in only nine games all of last season, they have scored 70 or more for the 10th time in 11 non-conference games this year.
First-year coach Johnny Jones brings his 9-2 squad into the Arena tonight for an 8 p.m. tip off. Leading the Bengal Tigers will be 7’ 3” center Andrew Del Piero, forward Shavon Coleman (14.1 ppg, 8.6 rebounds), guards Andre Stringer (11.7 ppg.) and Charles Carmouche (9.9 ppg,).
With a 6-7 record in non conference play, it is critical that Auburn has finally found its game because starting tonight, the SEC portion of the schedule will bring a lot of adversity.
As Coach Barbee said, “You can tuck your head and walk away, or you can fight. These guys have really understood and they’ve been buying into it all year long, but the last few games, they’ve really done a really good job of continuing to fight no matter the outcome.”
Fighting is going to be the key to navigating the SEC. And these Tigers can do it. After all it is the Auburn way …
“Fight on you Orange and Blue.”
UPDATE: Auburn beat LSU 68-63 behind the the hot hand of Allen Payne. Tigers evened record to 7-7. Will play South Carolina Saturday night.