Tigers Send Out Seniors With Win Over LSU

The Auburn men's basketball team defeated LSU to finish regular season with a 15-15 record, sending the seniors out with a win for their final home game at the Auburn Arena.

Auburn, Ala.-- Auburn held off a rally by LSU with solid shooting from the free throw line in the second half to send the seniors off with a 67-52 SEC basketball win over the Bengal Tigers on Senior Day at the Auburn Arena on Saturday.

"More than anything, I'm proud of these seniors," said Auburn coach Tony Barbee. "I'm proud of these guys, proud of the way they fought and proud that they went out with a win on their Senior Day and showed this crowd that they're winners."

The Tigers (15-15, 5-11) made 16 of their 23 free throw attempts in the second half and 23-for-31 for the game. The Tigers didn't score a field goal after the 10:23 mark, but made 16-of-20 free throws down the stretch.

"We work on them all the time, and especially at home, you are going to be more confident," said Barbee of his team's free throw shooting. "Guys stepped up and made them so I am proud of them."

Frankie Sullivan led the way for Auburn with 22 points, including nine points during a run to open the second half when the Tigers built their lead from five to 16 with 10:23 left in the game.

"I just told the guys to be aggressive," said Barbee of his halftime talk. "When you have that kind of lead, you want to come out and establish a separation in those first four or five minutes. We were able to do that.

"I told Frankie (Sullivan) and those seniors to be aggressive in those first four or five minutes," added Barbee." LSU is a good defensive team, so you got to go, what I call hooping, and Frankie went out there and hooped for the first five minutes."

Kenny Gabriel scored 14 points and grabbed five boards in his last game at the Auburn Arena, a sore point for the Auburn senior.

"It was tough because I like playing in front of this crowd," said Gabriel of waving goodbye to the crowd after the game. "They've been behind us for the last three years that I've been here.

"I couldn't hold back the tears because I'm going to miss this place," he added. "I'm going to miss my teammates, and it was just a real emotional moment for me."

Chris Denson shoots the ball on Saturday.

Chris Denson also stepped up big for the Tigers with 12 points, including eight from the free throw line. Denson said that "stepping up" was something Barbee has stressed to his team.

"I mean it's all about stepping up," said Denson, who has had two strong games after returning from a one-game suspension. "Coach (Barbee) always says to step up. When I got back, that was the main goal."

LSU (17-13, 7-9) was led by Ralston Turner's 14 point performance off the bench, although Auburn held him to only two second-half points. John Isaac added nine points for the Bengal Tigers.

"I thought they were the aggressor, and I thought they were the better team from start to finish," said LSU coach Trent Johnson on Auburn. "They played harder and were very physical."

Auburn took advantage of LSU's poor ball handling, turning 17 turnovers into 18 points. In contrast, the Bengal Tigers had zero points off Auburn's 10 giveaways.

Auburn shot 42.6 percent from the field for the game while holding LSU to 34 percent. The Tigers edged LSU in rebounding 36-34.

It was the Gabriel, Denson and Sullivan show in the first half, as the trio combined to score 27 of Auburn's 34 first-half points. Denson came off the bench to score nine first-half points for the Tigers. In all the bench contributed 16 points in the first 20 minutes.

The Tigers shot 52.2 percent from the field in the first half, while LSU shot at a 37.5 percent clip. The Tigers, who have been plagued by poor free-throw shooting, made seven of their eight attempts in the first half.

Auburn built a 12-point lead on a Noel Johnson trey with 7:11 left in the first half, but LSU finished with a 12-5 run to close the gap to 34-29 at the half.

At the five minute mark, Willy Kouassi made a highlight-worthy play, snatching a missed Tony Neysmith layup and slamming it home. Kouassi was big on the boards for the Tigers in the first half with five rebounds. He finished the game with four points and a team-high seven rebounds in 17 minutes of play

The No. 10-seed Tigers are slated to play No. 7 seed Ole Miss on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. CST in the New Orleans Arena.

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