Coach Tony Barbee's Tigers, who were down by as many as 21 points in the first half to the hot-shooting Blue Hose, cut the margin to just one point second half, but couldn't hit key shots in the closing minutes. The result was a third straight loss for the Tigers, who are now 3-7 following the 62-59 setback to Presbyterian.
Rob Chubb, who led the Tigers with 15 points, helped Auburn recover from a 15-point halftime deficit. Chubb hit a baby hook on Auburn's first possession to take a 2-0 lead. However, after that the Tigers never led as Presbyterian pulled away with its excellent shooting. The Blue Hose hit 9-14 threes in the first half and 14-21 overall to take a 38-23 lead at halftime.
"Today it was a lack of effort right out of the gate," Chubb said. "We came out flat. Everyone's head was in other places."
The Tigers came out in the second half to play with more heart and had multiple opportunities to win the game, but poor shooting prevented the Tigers from getting over the hump.
"If we would have played with that intensity and effort in the first half then that game could have went a different way," said head coach Tony Barbee. "I'm proud of them for the way they fought back and the way they battled because they very easily could have tucked their heads."
With three minutes left in the game, Auburn trailed by one point, but the theme of the night, poor shooting, cut the comeback short. The Tigers made 41.1 percent of their field goals compared to 60.5 percent for the visitors, who added their only three of the second half with 1:33 to play to stretch the lead to 57-53.
The Tigers cut the lead to two on a basket by Chubb with a minute to play, but Josh Wallace missed a layup with three seconds left that would have tied the game and that was Auburn's last chance.
Commenting on his team's uneven performance, Chubb said, "It goes to show that we have moments of brilliance. When we're locked in, we're focusing and we're playing as hard as we can, we can play with any team."
Frankie Sullivan, who played for the first time this season on Wednesday night at South Florida seeing action for nine minutes, played 20 minutes on Saturday. Sullivan has missed action with an ACL injury that he suffered during the off season. Sullivan is the lone Tiger returner who started last year.
"I felt pretty good," said Sullivan. "I would say I'm at about 80 percent. It's little small things that I don't have that I have to get back."
Commenting on Sullivan's return, Barbee said, "There was thought he may redshirt. He and the doctors felt like he was ready to go. I told Frankie it is his decision."
Ty Armstrong suffered the same torn ACL injury a month after Sullivan. Now that Sullivan has returned, there is talk beginning about Armstrong returning this year, which initially wasn't expected. "He's a lot like Frankie," Barbee said. "He is ahead of the normal timeline of normal rehab. He is back doing some things on the court where he is doing some individual workouts, running and cutting so he's looking good."
In addition to Chubb's 15 points, the only other Auburn player scoring in double figures was Kenny Gabriel with 10.
Khalid Mutakabbir led Presbyterian with 17 points. He was 3-4 on treys including the big shot that helped stop Auburn's comeback.
Presbyterian helped its cause by out-rebounding the Tigers 32-19. That helped the Blue Hose overcome 20 turnovers vs. an Auburn team that turned the ball over just five times.