Denson's Return Helps Spark Scoring Explosion

Five Tigers scored in double figures as Auburn defeated Grambling 92-42.

Auburn, Ala.--Chris Denson was one of five Tigers who scored in double figures as the Tigers coasted to a 92-42 non-conference basketball victory over Grambling on Tuesday night.

The Tigers scored 65 points after halftime as they made 25-37 field goals (67.6 percent) in the second half. That total included 9-14 threes after intermission as the Tigers ended a four-game losing streak

The margin of victory was the largest for an Auburn team since Jan. 2nd, 2000 when the Tigers defeated Stony Brook 100-45.

Denson missed the first seven games of the season because he was academically ineligible. After passing 18 semester hours he was cleared to play for the first time on Tuesday night and responded with 13 points as he hit 5-6 field goals in 20 minutes of action as a starter.

"It was a sigh of relief," Denson said when asked how it felt to be eligible again. "Not playing the first eight games and seeing my team go through that hard stretch really hurt just being on the sideline and not playing.

"I think I brought a lot of energy and the scoring spark we needed to get the W," the junior guard added.

Denson said he learned a valuable lesson by being forced to sit out. "I grew up--point-blank, period," he said. "I didn't have my head on right, my priorities were messed up."

Denson said that Coach Tony Barbee, his family and his teammates "stood by my side when I was going through the hard time and I picked up and did what I had to do to get back on the court."

Chris Denson soars on the way to a dunk vs. Grambling.

Barbee said he told his team at halftime that he was attributing a sluggish first half to final exams, lots of practices and a 10-day layoff from games. "I said now let's knock the rust off. We got good looks in the first half, shots we made in the second half."

The Tigers finished the game at 54.0 percent shooting from the field while also hitting 11-24 three-pointers. "I was just glad to see the ball go in the hole and the guys shoot with a lot more confidence," Barbee said of the hot second-half shooting.

"We took care of the ball better," he added, noting the Tigers had 10 first half turnovers and only two after that.

Auburn improved its record to 3-5 as it ended a four-game losing streak. Grambling is winless in seven starts.

Four other Tigers joined Denson in double figures for points with Jordan Price and Noel Johnson scoring 14 apiece. Johnson was 4-6 on treys and Price hit 4-4.

"Hopefully, this win will rub off on us and we will continue to win," said Price, a freshman guard.

Seniors Frankie Sullivan and Rob Chubb scored 10 points apiece while junior Allen Payne added nine points and a team-high seven rebounds.

Defensively, Barbee said he liked how the Tigers limited Grambling's key player, guard Terry Rose, to eight points on 3-12 shooting.

Both teams were sluggish offensively to open the game, but Auburn was able to build a lead thanks to its defense which forced 13 turnovers by halftime.

Auburn took the lead at 5-3 with 14:57 left in the half when Payne jammed home a rebound. The Tigers built their advantage into double figures at the 10:05 mark when Noel Johnson hit a pair of free throws to make the score 17-16.

Barbee used 11 players in the first half as the Tigers went into the locker room at the break with a 27-15 lead.

The Tigers came out sizzling with their shooting to start the second half and less than three minutes into the period they were up 42-18 and the rout was on.

Halftime Numbers: Sullivan and Denson led the Tigers in scoring with seven points apiece while Noel Johnson added five.

The Tigers hit 34.6 percent of their field goals (9-26), 2-10 threes and 7-11 at the foul line. Grambling hit 6-22 field goals for 27.3 percent, 2-8 threes and 1-2 free throws in the first half. The Tigers had a 21-15 rebounding edge and committed 10 turnovers, three less than Grambling.

Second Half Scoring: Auburn's 65 points are the most by an Auburn team in a half since scoring 73 vs. Troy State on Dec. 9, 1993 in a 113-86 Tigers win.

Missing Man: Shareif Adamu, a juco transfer who started two games and played in four others this year, missed the DePaul game with a suspension and will now miss the rest of the season after being permanently removed from the team, Barbee announced dismissal prior to the Grambling game. Adamu, a transfer from Georgia Perimeter College, averaged 2.7 points, 2.0 rebounds and 12.7 minutes of playing time per contest.

Clearing the Bench: Barbee used all of his 14 players. Freshman walk-on Nick Pellar excited the bench as he nailed a three-pointer from the corner to close the scoring in the final minute.

More On the Bench: Auburn's reserves scored 43 points, one more than Grambling's team total.

Lots of Points: Auburn outscored the visitors 36-4 in points off of turnovers and 42-16 for points in the paint.

Up Next: The Tigers will be at home for a 7 p.m. CST contest vs. Furman.

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