Cold-Shooting Tigers Beached In Hawaii

Despite a strong performance from Frankie Sullivan, Auburn's winning streak ended when the Tigers could handle Long Beach State.

Honolulu--Auburn's four-game winning streak was snapped on Friday night as Long Beach State advanced to the finals of the Diamond Head Classic with a 64-43 basketball victory over the Tigers.

The Tigers, who are 1-1 in the event and 8-2 overall, will play their final game in Hawaii on Christmas Day at 6:30 p.m. Central Standard Time vs. UTEP, the team that Tony Barbee coached before he came to Auburn last year. The winner of that game will finish in third place in the eight-team field.

Long Beach State, which improved to 7-5, will play Kansas State in the championship game on Christmas Day.

Defense was the key to victory for Long Beach State as the 49ers put the clamps on any Auburn player not named Frankie Sullivan. The junior guard scored more than half of his team's points, making six treys on the way to finishing with 22 points and six rebounds.

For the contest the Tigers made just 15-57 field goals for a season-low 26.3 percent shooting. Sullivan hit 8-16 field goals.

"I thought we did some good things defensively," Barbee said. "When you hold them to 42 percent shooting, 37 percent in the second half, we gave ourselves opportunities on the defensive end of the floor.

"Offensively, we were anemic tonight," the coach said. "Hopefully, we can chalk it up to just being an off night. More of a concern is we didn't have guys who could make plays when they had an opportunity to make plays."

The Auburn defense forced 17 turnovers, but only scored nine points as a direct result of those plays.

Barbee said the bottom line in the game was his team's lack of grit. "At the end of the day we just got out-toughed," he stated, noting the Tigers had just six offensive rebounds and were outscored 26-12 in the points-in-the-paint statistic.

"I was disappointed with the effort and I told the guys as disappointed as I am I know you are, too, but we can't let it fester because we have to play in a very short time period," Barbee said.

Noel Johnson shoots for the Tigers.

The 49ers enjoyed big advantages on the boards and at the free throw line. Long Beach State out-rebounded Auburn 43-25 and made 19-25 free throws while the Tigers were 6-6 at the foul line.

The Tigers were in striking distance midway in the second half when Sullivan hit a three to cut the Long Beach State lead to 46-38. However, Auburn's shooting touch disappeared and the 49ers went on a 16-0 run to take command of the game.

Auburn also had a cold streak in the first half, allowing Long Beach State to score 10 unanswered points.

Larry Anderson scored 16 points and Eugene Phelps and Casper Ware added 13 points each for Long Beach State, the defending Big West Conference champions.

Sullivan hit the first shot of the game to give the Tigers a 3-0 lead, but at the 16:00 mark the 49ers took the lead for good at 5-3 on a fastbreak basket by six-foot-seven forward Phelps.

Auburn fell farther behind as nobody other than Sullivan could score. Auburn was down 19-8 after a 10-0 run by Long Beach State before Varez Ward became the second Tiger to score as he hit a pair of free throws with 7:44 left in the first half.

Auburn cut the lead to eight at 26-18 on a trey by Sullivan, but the 49ers pulled the lead back into double figures taking a 32-22 advantage into the locker room at halftime. Auburn's problem was shooting in the first 20 minutes as the Tigers made just 23 percent of their field goals while the 49ers hit half of their shots. Sullivan scored 14 of Auburn's first half points.

In the other semi-final game on Friday, Kansas State took a 78-70 victory over UTEP to advance to the championship game.

The Tigers opened the tournament with a 65-62 victory over the University of Hawaii, the host team, in the opening round.

Tony Neysmith saw extensive playing time in the second half.

Barbee said he is not looking forward to playing his old team, but noted there isn't a lot of carryover from his time at UTEP with just one player he coached on the roster and two others he recruited.

"I have a lot of fond memories," he said of his time coaching in El Paso, Tex. "They gave me my first opportunity as a head coach so the last thing I wanted to do was play them over here, but it is what it is. Now we have got to figure a way to win the game."

The contest will be televised by ESPN2.

News and Notes: The game marked the Auburn debut of six-foot-seven guard Noel Johnson, who came in off bench in the second half. He scored two points in 16 minutes of action. The transfer from Clemson was 1-4 shooting and contributed five rebounds, one assist and one steal...Another first in the game was the opening appearance this season of senior guard Tony Neysmith, who was sidelined for what Barbee said was a violation of team rules. Neysmith played 11 minutes and was 0-3 from the field with two rebounds, one steal and no points...Friday night's game was just the second ever between the Tigers and 49ers, both in holiday tournaments. The series is now tied at 1-1...The Tigers will go to the Pearl Harbor Memorial on Christmas Eve...Barbee had praise for Sullivan. "Frankie played well," the coach said, noting the guard hit 8-16 shots. Barbee wondered aloud if the Tigers would have been better off letting Sullivan take all 57 shots. "Not one other guy shot 50 percent," he said...Five Tigers came into the game averaging double figures for points scored. Sullivan was the only one who got there vs. the 49ers. Kenny Gabriel, Auburn's second leading scorer, finished the game with seven points, hitting just 2-11 field goals while trying to play with an injured ankle...Nobody else scored more than two points except for Rob Chubb, who fouled out with four points, and Varez Ward, who also finished with four points. Ward had just one assist to go with five turnovers at the point guard spot.

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