Tiger Comeback Falls Short In SEC Tournament

Auburn rallied in the second half, but Texas A&M pulled out a basketball victory vs. the Tigers, ending Auburn's season in Nashville.

Nashville, Tenn.--Texas A&M held off a second-half Auburn run ending the season for the Tigers in the opening round of the SEC Basketball Tournament late Wednesday night.

The Aggies won the game with a big edge on the boards, out-rebounding Auburn 36-24. The difference in offensive rebounds was 9-4, enabling Texas A&M to outscore the Tigers 9-0 in second chance points, which was the margin of victory in the 71-62 contest.

"They are a big team--big and physical," Auburn coach Tony Barbee said. "We have been out-manned at the four spot all year playing small, but those guys Allen (Allen Payne) and Noel (Noel Johnson) fought their butts off.

"I told the guys at halftime I was disappointed about the rebounding stats because that was the No. 1 key for the game," Barbee added. "I think they had six offensive rebounds at the half and we had none, and it was minus nine at the half. It was a disappointing number given it was the number one key for the game."

The Tigers finished the season with 10 straight losses to end the season 9-23. The Aggies improved to 18-14 with two wins over Auburn.

Frankie Sullivan wrapped up his collegiate career with 19 points. The guard hit 4-11 field goals, including 3-8 treys, and also made 8-9 free throws.

Junior guard Chris Denson came off the bench to score 15 points for the Tigers and helped the second half comeback.

Elston Turner, who played the game with a broken bone in his non-shooting hand, was considered questionable going into the game, but led the Aggies in scoring with 22 points. He hit 6-15 field goals and was 8-8 at the foul line.

Both teams came out of the locker room shooting well. The Tigers didn't miss a shot until the 16:58 mark, but were not able to pull away from the Aggies, who were shooting the ball well, too.

Auburn's last lead of the game was at 13-10 on a trey by Noel Johnson at the 16:15 mark that was immediately answered with a trey by Turner to start a 10-0 run for the Aggies.

Chris Denson drives to the basket for the Tigers in the second half.

The Aggies built the lead to as many as 13 points at the 1:35 mark before the Tigers finished the half strong to cut the margin to 34-27 at the break.

"It was a hard-fought game," Barbee said. "I was proud of the way the guys fought, the way they competed. They dug themselves a little hole, but continued to fight and claw back in it."

The Tigers never led in the second half, but pulled even at the 11:17 mark on a three-point play by Denson, who was fouled from behind on a fastbreak layup to make the score 47-47. Fabyon Harris immediately responded with a three-point shot putting the Aggies back on top.

The Tigers never could make another run, partly because the Aggies took care of business at the foul line. For the game they made 21-26 free throws.

Commenting on his team's comeback, Sullivan said, "At that point in time we were clicking on all cylinders as a team--playing great team defense, boxing out and making shots. We played with a lot of confidence in that stretch."

Sullivan credited the Aggies with "hitting a couple of big shots" to regain their leading enabling them "to hold on to the end."

Tony Barbee is not pleased with a call in the opening half on Wednesday night.

Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy called the victory a "good win" for the Aggies. "Tony had his team ready to play," he said. "Both teams came out on fire the first five, six minutes and it was a tournament type game. We were fortunate to make enough plays to get a lead and we handled their run in the second half, and I thought that was the big key."

Starting Lineup: Rob Chubb, Josh Wallace, Frankie Sullivan, Jordan Price and Allen Payne opened the game for the Tigers.

Halftime Numbers: Texas A&M hit 12-26 shots for 46.2 percent. The Aggies were 4-9 on threes, 6-8 on free throws.

Auburn was 10-22 shooting for 45.5 percent. The Tigers were 3-10 on threes, and 4-6 on free throws.

The Aggies held an 18-9 edge in rebounds. Auburn did have not an offensive rebound in the opening half. The Tigers turned the ball over five times, one less than the Aggies.

Sullivan led the Tigers in scoring at halftime with eight while Price had five and Wallace four. Turner led the Aggies with nine points.

Game One: Mississippi State outscored South Carolina 32-21 and held on for a 70-59 victory in the other Wednesday night game with both teams scoring 38 points in the second half.

Worth Noting, Part 1: Shooting problems haunted the Tigers all season. It was no surprise the Aggies outshot the Tigers. Texas A&M?hit 22-49 field goals for 44.9 percent. Auburn made 20-50 for 40 percent.

Auburn was 6-21 on threes, Texas A&M made 6-16. Auburn was 16-20 at the foul line.

Worth Noting, Part 2: Auburn turned the ball over 11 times, one more than the Aggies, but outscored Texas A&M 9-4 in points off of turnovers.

Worth Noting, Part 3: Sullivan, who played more games for the Tigers than anyone in Auburn history, said it was sad to see his AU career end. "It really hit me in the locker room just now, especially after fighting so hard knowing we could have won the game."

Worth Noting, Part 4: Former walk-on point guard Josh Wallace was 4-5 shooting, scored eight points and dished out four assists and had just one turnover. He added two of his team's five steals.

Wallace said after his final college game, "That is definitely not how you want to go out, but I mean we fought and we've just got to walk out the door with our head held high and hope--I know these boys next year are going to carry the torch and do better than us."

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