Arkansas Outlasts Auburn 56-53 In SEC Hoops

Auburn led a significant portion of the night, but Arkansas made key plays down the stretch to pull out an SEC basketball victory.

Fayetteville, Ark.--Arkansas rallied in the second half and hung on for a 56-53 SEC basketball victory over Auburn on Wednesday night at Bud Walton Arena.

Kenny Gabriel had a chance to send the game into overtime, but his shot from the corner to beat the buzzer was off target.

Two other Tigers, Frankie Sullivan and Chris Denson, took three-pointers in the final minute to the tie the game, but those shots were off target, too.

Arkansas improved to 15-5 overall and 3-2 in the SEC with all 15 victories at home. Auburn fell 12-8 overall and 2-4 in the SEC.

"Any time you lose like that on the road it is a heartbreaker," said Auburn coach Tony Barbee, whose team had a similar setback in their last road game at LSU.

"I am proud of the guys the way they fought," said Barbee, who added, "We had our chances. Unfortunately, they made a few more plays than we did at the end."

Gabriel led the Tigers with 13 points and eight rebounds. Denson and Sullivan each scored 10 points for the Tigers.

Freshman guard B.J. Young led the Razorbacks with 11 points while Julysses Nobles and Rashad Madden scored 10 points apiece.

Arkansas had been jumping on opponents early this season at Bud Walton Arena, but the Razorbacks didn't shoot well enough in the first half to make that happen.

Auburn got off to a slow start offensively, but the Razorbacks were frigid, not scoring until Hunter Mickelson hit a layup at the 14:12 mark to cut Auburn's edge to 4-2.

The Razorbacks took a brief lead at 15-14, but the Tigers held a slim lead most of the half and were up 22-19 at intermission as Arkansas struggled with its shooting, but its pressure defense kept the game close by forcing 15 of Auburn's 19 turnovers in the opening 20 minutes.

Allen Payne scored six points and added three rebounds off the bench for the Tigers.

The biggest lead of the game for either team was seven by the Tigers as Gabriel's two-hand stuff of a missed shot put the Tigers up 37-30 just under seven minutes into the second half. However, the Razorbacks went on a 12-2 run to take a 42-39 lead.

The game stay close the rest of the way as Arkansas improved its shooting considerably in the second half. "In the second half we broke down defensively and they shot 55 percent," Barbee said. "If you hold them under 40 percent, even as bad as we were offensively at times, you probably win that game going away."

Barbee said he thought the Tigers had opportunities to score many more points than they did against the Arkansas defense, but noted nobody on his team stepped up and played "big" on the offensive end of the floor.

"I thought the interior was open," the coach said. "I thought we could take advantage of that. Rob Chubb goes 0-5 so it is hard to win in this environment, it is hard to win on the road, when one of your main offensive weapons goes 0-5 from the floor."

Chubb did not score in the game, but tied Gabriel for the team high in rebounds with eight.

Auburn made 21-52 shots for 40.4 percent from the field while Arkansas made 19-54 for 35.2 percent.

Auburn hit 5-17 threes while the home team made 6-20.

Arkansas was 12-19 at the foul line while Auburn made 6-10 free throws.

The Tigers held a 44-29 advantage in rebounds.

"It was a pretty tough game," said Gabriel. "The crowd was in it pretty much the whole game, especially when they went on runs. I feel like if we had taken care of the ball a little bit better and made a couple more plays, we would have won the game."

Starting Lineup: Kenny Gabriel, Rob Chubb, Josh Langford, Josh Wallace and Frankie Sullivan.

Injury Report: Varez Ward suffered a bruised quad almost immediately after he entered the game and did not return to action. Later in the first half, Josh Langford took a blow to the head and left the game. He did not return.

Seldom Seen: With Ward sidelined, senior Tony Neysmith saw his first SEC action of the season and scored two points and chipped in with two assits.

At the Half: Auburn hit 9-24 field goals (37.5 percent), 2-6 threes, 2-4 free throws and led the rebounding battle 24-17 at intermission. Gabriel scored almost one third of his team's points at intermission with seven as the Tigers led 22-19. Gabriel also led in first half rebounds with five.

Arkansas hit 4-27 field goals (14.8 percent), 1-11 threes and 10-14 free throws. Devonta Abram led the Razorbacks in first half points with five.

Up Next: Auburn plays on the road Saturday with a 5 p.m. CST game at Tennessee.

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