Another Big Comeback For Barbee's Tigers

The Auburn men's basketball closed the regular season with a 60-51 road victory at LSU.

Baton Rouge, La.--Auburn closed the regular season with another SEC basketball comeback victory, rallying from 15 points down in the second half to defeat LSU 60-51 on Saturday night at the Maravich Assembly Center.

With the victory Coach Tony Barbee's Tigers avoided finishing last in the SEC West by improving their record to 4-12 in the league while LSU fell to 3-13 in the conference.

With the win the Tigers are the fifth seed for Thursday's SEC Tournament in Atlanta and will play the first game vs. the still to be determined fourth seed from the SEC East at noon CST at the Georgia Dome.

After coming back from 20 down to win on Wednesday night to defeat Ole Miss, the Tigers overcame a large deficit for a second straight game.

Auburn trailed 29-24 at halftime, but struggled to score in the opening minutes of the second period. The visiting Tigers fell behind 40-25 before freshman Allen Payne got Auburn's first field goal after intermission, a three-pointer from the wing at the 13:46 mark.

From that point forward the game changed dramatically. After giving up a basket to fall behind 42-28 the Tigers went to work on both ends of the court and quit turning the ball over, a problem that plagued them in the first 28 minutes when they had 20 of their 21 turnovers for the game.

Barbee's Tigers cut the lead to single digits with 10:55 to play on an alley-oop slam by Gabriel to make the score 42-34.

With 5:51 to play the Tigers took the lead at 45-44 for the first time since the opening minute and they never gave it up as Josh Wallace hit a pair of free throws. Earnest Ross scored three more points on a steal and a layup a free throw as he was fouled on the play.

LSU put the Tigers at the foul line in the closing minutes, but Auburn took care of business on its free throws and picked up their second SEC road victory of the season to improve to 11-19 for the season. LSU finished its regular season with an 11-20.

For the game the Tigers hit 22-30 free throws while LSU made 11-19.

Auburn also enjoyed a big advantage on the boards, finishing with 46 rebounds to 31 vs. LSU.

Kenny Gabriel and Ross led the Tigers on the boards. Gabriel finished with 11 rebounds to go with his 16 points. Ross tied him for game-high honors in points with 16 and finished with a double-double, too, as he pulled in 10 rebounds.

"The first half we got behind but in the second half, we picked it up on the defensive end and started to make shots and free throws," Gabriel said in explaining Auburn's comeback.

Neither team did much damage from long range on Saturday night. Auburn hit 2-11 treys while LSU made 2-15.

Overall, Auburn hit 18-49 field goals (36.7 percent) while LSU hit 19-52 (36.5 percent).

"In the second half we were more aggressive, we attacked the paint, we got the ball in the interior like we did late in the first half," Barbee said. "I am proud of the kids the way they battled."

Auburn's first half struggles, an issue much of the year, continued to plague the Tigers in Baton Rouge. "I don't know what to say about the first half about the first half," Barbee said. "I have no idea what in the world is going on with us."

In addition to the last two games, Auburn came back to win from 19 points down vs. Mississippi State and 17 vs. Middle Tennessee State. "It is almost ground hog day for this team," Barbee said. "I tried to play mind games with them before the game and said the first half is the second half. We came out tentative. The second half, we did what we needed to do. We were aggressive and turned the heat up and took advantage of it."

LSU had Auburn doubled up at 22-11 in the first half, but the Tigers rallied before intermission.

Auburn outscored the Bayou Bengals 13-5 to close the first half as Gabriel scored 10 of the points and Rob Chubb added an old-fashioned three-point play in the closing seconds.

It was another big run that made the difference in the second half as Auburn outscored LSU 20-2 to erase LSU's double-digits lead.

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