Tigers Fold At Crunch Time In Loss to Aggies

Auburn's lack of execution down the stretch doomed the Tigers to another SEC basketball loss.

Auburn, Ala.--When it was time to make a play with the game on the line Wednesday night the Tigers were not able to rise to the occasion as Texas A&M took a 65-56 SEC basketball road victory over Auburn on Wednesday night.

The setback was the fourth straight loss for Coach Tony Barbee's Tigers and 10th in the last 11 games.

The key play of the game was a turnover by senior guard Frankie Sullivan. With Auburn trailing 55-53 with a chance to tie the game or take the lead, Texas A&M guard J'Mychal Reese stole the ball from Sullivan and scored on a fastbreak layup with 2:09 left to play.

After Chris Denson made one of two foul shots the Tigers trailed by three points with 1:46 to play, but a defensive miscue gave the Aggies an uncontested layup to make the score 59-54 with 1:15 left and that was game, set and match.

"We couldn't make a shot," said Barbee, whose team shot 37.5 percent for the night, including a dreadful 8-30 in the second half.

"We are not a very good team right now and I am not a very good coach with this team," Barbee said. "This is just disappointing."

Barbee substituted early and often vs. the Aggies. Eleven Tigers saw action with eight players on the court for at least 15 minutes.

"When guys aren't playing well they have to come out of the game," Barbee said, explaining the heavy substitution pattern. "If they are not going to defend, then they come right out of the game. If they are not going to dive on the floor for loose balls, they come right out of the game. If they don't pursue every rebound, they come right out of the game."

Allen Payne led the Tigers in scoring with 11 points. He hit 4-7 field goals. No other Auburn player scored in double figures as Rob Chubb, Denson and Jordan Price finished the contest with nine points each while Shaquille Johnson and Sullivan scored seven.

Shaquille Johnson shoots for the Tigers.

Texas A&M got 21 points from Elston Turner. He hit 6-12 field goals and 4-9 threes. With the victory the Aggies improved their record to 16-10 overall and 6-7 in the SEC.

Auburn dropped to 9-17 overall and 3-10 in the SEC.

"Collectively, the effort is not good and the leadership is not good," Barbee said. "The leadership is back on the staff. What I have told the players from day one when the leadership comes from the staff you are not going to be a very good team."

Auburn was 5-23 shooting threes while the Aggies hit 5-19. Texas A&M was 16-20 at the foul line while Auburn made 9-14 free throws.

Auburn was out-rebounded 34-32. The Tigers turned the ball over 10 times, one less than the Aggies.

The Tigers jumped out to a 12-0 lead as the visitors struggled to make a shot early in the contest. That didn't happen until Turner scored on a layup at the 13:51 mark. The Aggies held a brief lead at 23-22 with 3:07 to play, but the Tigers took a 31-29 advantage into the locker room at halftime.

The game was close almost the entire second half before the visitors pulled away in the last two minutes.

Payne said it is up to himself and the other juniors and seniors on the team to provide the leadership to get the team out of its tailspin. The junior forward said that it is not in Barbee's nature to give up and said that isn't going to happen.

"He is not the type of guy to quit on anybody," Payne said. "He is the most competitive person I have ever been around and he loves us to much too let us fall by the wayside."

Payne said it is up to the players to get the team out of its losing streak, not Barbee. "He's not playing," Payne said. "His playing days are over. He's 40-plus, he's done. He's putting us in the best position possible for us to win. We just have to execute it because he's not playing.

"As good as they were as players, none of these coaches are out there playing with us," Payne added. "We back Coach 100 percent and we know he's not going to give up on us so we are not going to give up on him."

Starting Lineup: Barbee went with seniors Josh Wallace, Sullivan and Chubb along with Payne and freshman Shaquille Johnson.

Halftime Statistics: Auburn was 13-26 from the field for (50 percent), 3-10 on threes and 2-6 at the foul line. The Aggies hit 11-30 first half shots for 36.7 percent. They were 4-13 on threes and 3-6 at the foul line.

Auburn led in rebounds 18-16. The Tigers had four turnovers, the Aggies had three. Texas A&M held an 8-2 edge in points off of turnovers in the half.

Price led the Tigers in scoring with six points while Shaq Johnson and Chubb had five apiece. Turner scored 12 of the Aggies' first half points.

Worth Noting: Auburn's bench outscored Texas A&M's bench 20-12, but the key stat in the game was the Aggies outshooting Auburn 55.0 percent to 26.7 percent in the second half.

Worth Noting, Part 2: Sullivan's shooting slumped continued. He was 2-9 from the field and 1-8 on threes. With Sullivan playing point guard, the Tigers had issues getting their offense functioning smoothly.

"There aren't any other options on this team other than Josh Wallace," Barbee said of the point guard situation. "It just makes it hard when people don't guard him (Wallace) because then you are playing four on five offensively. It is hard to get anything done at that point."

Up Next: The Tigers play at 4 p.m. Saturday in Oxford vs. Ole Miss.

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