"When you are playing a team that is 0-6 they are going to fight their tails off to try to get a win," Coach Tony Barbee said. "I thought we came out a little flat. I don't know if we were thinking about the Thanksgiving break or whatever the case may be.
"Every time we get an opportunity to step on the floor we have got to be prepared, we have got to be excited and we have got to bring the energy," Barbee said. "I thought they brought the energy to us."
Auburn put four players in double figures with Chris Denson leading the way with 17 points despite missing most of the first half after picking up two early fouls. Denson made 9-10 foul shots as the Tigers made 81.1 percent of their free throws.
Jacquan Nobles, who hit 6-9 treys, led the TSU?Tigers with 22 points. TSU's star player, Patrick Miller, added 17 points as did Kennedy Eubanks.
Auburn led most of the game, but never was able to shake the visitors from Nashville. Auburn's largest lead was just nine points with 4:10 to play, but TSU cut the margin to 72-70 with 40 seconds left on a three-point by Nobles.
Denson then made two free throws with 35 seconds left and Payne hit 1-2 foul shots to make the lead 75-70 with 27 seconds left. Payne again hit 1-2 foul shots with 16 seconds left to make the lead 76-71 and that was enough cushion for the Tigers to hold on to the victory.
"I am not happy how we played, but a win is a win and I am happy about that," Payne said. "Those are hard to come by, but I am definitely not happy about how I played individually and how we played as a team--especially on the defensive end of the floor.
"We gave up 56.5 shooting," Payne added. "That is unacceptable for this team."
On the plus side, the senior said that Shamsid-Deen helped carry the offensive load when Denson and K.T. Harrell got into early foul trouble. "I think Tajh did a good job of being aggressive," the senior said.
Stat of the Game: The Tigers were outscored 27-6 in three-point field goals.
K.T. Harrell takes a pull-up jumper in the second half.
Stat of the Game, Part 2: The Tigers hit 30-37 fouls shots while the visitors made just 12-24.
Worth Noting: Both teams had 28 rebounds, but Auburn had just eight assists, half the number TSU produced. Auburn turned the ball over just seven times while TSU had twice as many turnovers.
Halftime Numbers:Auburn led 36-33 despite being outshot 54.5 percent to 37.9 percent from the field. TSU hit 6-10 first half threes while Auburn made just 1-9. Auburn's edge was at the foul line where the Tigers hit 13-16 in the half while the visitors made just 3-6.
Auburn led in rebounds 17-14 and committed just three turnovers, six fewer than TSU.
Shamsid-Deen led the Tigers in scoring with 14 points while Allen Payne added eight and Malcolm Canada scored seven.
The Tigers return to action on Monday at 6 p.m. CST as they hit the road to play the Iowa State Cyclones. The game will be televised on ESPNU as part of the SEC-Big 12 Challenge.
"We can get away with it against Tennessee State, but if we play the way we played tonight we are going to get embarrassed on national TV," Payne said.