Tigers Rally For Victory Vs. the Seminoles

In the SEC vs. ACC matchup, Frankie Sullivan led the Tigers to a victory with 24 points and he got plenty of help from his teammates in a 78-72 win.

Auburn, Ala.--Coach Tony Barbee told his Tigers if they kept their turnover total under 10 they would defeat Florida State, but if they committed 20 or more they would lose.

Auburn finished the evening with nine turnovers, 11 less than the Seminoles, on the way to a 78-72 basketball victory over the defending ACC champions on Wednesday night at the Auburn Arena.

The Tigers rallied from a dozen points down in the first half to improve their record to 6-7 while FSU fell to 8-5.

The Tigers played the game without their second-leading scorer, junior guard Chris Denson, who is expected to be out for three or four weeks due to a stress fracture in his foot. Another guard, Jordan Price, has missed the last two games with a similar injury.

Barbee said the coaching staff wasn't sure about Denson's status for the game until Wednesday's pre-game shoot-around.

Frankie Sullivan led the Tigers with 24 points while Allen Payne scored a career-high 17 points while adding seven rebounds and three assists.

Noel Johnson scored nine for the Tigers while Shaquille Johnson and Rob Chubb added eight points apiece. Auburn edged FSU in rebounding 42-40 with Chubb leading the Tigers with 10.

"It was a maturing win," said Payne, who noted the Tigers needed the backup players to step up and that happened vs. the Seminoles. "It was a very big win for us with a lot of contributions coming from young guys," the forward said.

"Hopefully, we can take this momentum into conference play," added Payne.

In addition to challenging his team to keep the turnovers to a minimum, Barbee said he challenged everybody else on the squad to step up their level of play with Denson and Price sidelined.

"Everybody had to do more with those guys out and I think Allen Payne has taken it on his shoulders," the coach said. "We saw it in the last game, too.

"Not only did he have 17 (points), he had 17 and seven (rebounds)," Barbee said of Payne's performance vs. FSU. "He played with great energy and great toughness from start to finish. We are going to need a lot of performances like that out of Allen as we go into the league."

Auburn struggled with its shooting for much of the first half and fell behind by as many as a dozen points with 8:55 to play the period. However, with the help of transition baskets set up by the defense the Tigers steadily chopped into the FSU margin cutting the gap to one-point at the break as Shaquille Johnson beat the buzzer with a fastbreak dunk.

Josh Wallace handles the ball for the Tigers.

Auburn took the lead for good at the 18:05 mark on a layup by Chubb to put the Tigers up 42-40. Payne closed the 9-0 run by the Tigers with a basket at the 16:20 mark.

The Tigers stretched the margin into double figures at the 7:29 mark on a three by Noel Johnson to make the score 62-51. Auburn's largest lead was a dozen with 1:22 left as the Tigers coasted in with a victory. About the only thing that Barbee said he didn't like was some sloppiness in the final minute as FSU cut Auburn's lead in half.

FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said the Tigers deserved to win the game. "They played with a lot more fight and played with more energy than we did to keep them at bay," he said, commenting on Auburn rallying for the victory.

Wallace said the victory was just what his Tigers needed. "It was tremendous--it was real big, just a confidence boost. Now we're going in and we have a little bit of moxie going into the SEC. Hopefully, we can make some noise in the SEC."

Starting Lineup: The Tigers went with a three-guard lineup with Frankie Sullivan, Josh Wallace and Shaquille Johnson joining forward Allen Payne and center Rob Chubb as starters.

Wakeup Call: Sullivan said the loss to Winthrop has energized the Tigers who have played well since then in practice and in a two-point loss on the road vs. Illinois. "We came here and it was a must-win for us and we went out and got that W," Sullivan said of his team's victory over the Seminoles.

Halftime Numbers: Auburn trailed just 36-35 at the break despite the Seminoles hitting 52 percent of their shots at intermission to just 34.2 percent for the home team. FSU was on target from three-point range, making 7-13 first half attempts, but managed to make just 3-11 free throws.

Auburn made 3-11 treys and 6-8 first half free throws while enjoying a 23-19 advantage on the boards. The Seminoles turned the ball over nine times in the first half, four more than the Tigers.

Sullivan led all scorers at the break with 18 points while Payne added eight points for the Tigers.

Solid Numbers: Wallace led the Tigers in minutes with 34 and had a box score line that pleased the head coach. The point guard dished out six assists and had just one turnover while scoring six points and pulling in five rebounds. His five steals were a career-high.

FSU Scorers: Michael Snaer led the Seminoles with 18 points and 12 rebounds while Terry Whisnant scored 16 points for FSU.

More From Barbee: Auburn played aggressively on offense, something that has not been a consistent trademark of the 2012-13 team. "Watching their team on tape I thought that was something we could exploit," Barbee said. "We wanted to be aggressive, but smart, and not charge because they do a great job of taking charges."

Up Next: The Tigers begin SEC play next Wednesday with an 8 p.m. CST game vs. LSU.

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