Defense And Denson Spark Auburn's Victory

Auburn picked up its fifth SEC men' basketball victory with an 83-67 victory over South Carolina.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn used strong defensive play in the opening half to build a 12-point advantage at intermission on the way to an 83-67 SEC basketball victory over South Carolina on Wednesday night.

Four Tigers scored in double figures led by 22 points from senior Chris Denson, who hit 8-11 field goals.

Auburn helped its cause by making 52.1 percent of its field goals and coming up with 11 steals, eight more than the Gamecocks. South's Carolina's 20 turnovers, compared to 11 for the Tigers, helped the home team overcome being out-rebounded 36-25 by the Gamecocks.

"I thought we really came out guarding them," Coach Tony Barbee said. "It was the major issue against Vanderbilt--we did not guard at a high level that this team is capable of."

Denson agreed with his coach after watching his team's loss to Vanderbilt. "We watched the tape and the energy just wasn't there," he said. "We just brought it this game. We had more energy on the defensive end."

A crowd of 4,434, the smallest ever for an SEC men's basketball game at Auburn Arena, sat through a game that lasted two hours and 15 minutes in a contest marred by the less-than-competent officiating from the crew of Ted Valentine, Don Daily and Pat Adams.

The crew called questionable technical fouls on Tajh Shamsid-Deen and Jordan Granger in addition to generally ruining the flow of the game for the fans attending the contest.

Tony Barbee is not amused by official Don Daily's explanation of a call in Wednesday's game.

Muzzled by SEC rules prohibiting comments on the officiating, no matter how poor it may be, after the game Barbee talked about his team staying mentally tough enough to win game, two things lacking on Saturday in a disappointing home loss to Vanderbilt.

"I thought the guys did a good job of handling any adversity that came tonight," he said.

"I thought the team kept a level head,"?Barbee added. "You can't get caught up in things you can't control."

Asked about the 53 fouls in Wednesday night's game, Barbee said, "They are a physical team. We tried to be a physical team so it is just nature of the game. As a player you can't let that affect you. I thought we did a good job of not letting the physical nature of the game or foul trouble affect us."

With the victory the Tigers improved their record to 13-13 and 5-10 in SEC play. The Gamecocks dropped to 10-18 overall and 3-12 in the conference.

Allen Payne scored 15 points for the Tigers, Shamsid-Deen, who played just 17 minutes because of foul trouble, scored 14 points, dished out four assiss and did not have a turnover.

Shamsid-Deen's backup, Malcolm Canada, played 22 minutes and had what Barbee said was the juco transfer's best game. He finished with four points, four rebounds, three assists, one steal and no turnovers.

The Tigers got 11 points from K.T. Harrell, who continues to struggle with his shooting. The junior guard was 2-8 from the field and 1-4 on threes.

South Carolina got 26 points from Brenton Williams, who did most of his damage in the second half.

"I think from the very beginning the game started off rough," Williams said. "We started the game with about three or four turnovers in a row. They really started to pressure us. It seemed like ever since the beginning of the game we could not seem to get back in the groove."

Auburn made 25-35 foul shots and 8-22 threes. The Gamecocks hit 19-25 foul shots and 6-20 threes with Williams making 5-9.

Asked about the smaller than usual crowd, Barbee was asked if he has done enough as head coach to earn support of the fans. He said, "All I can do is control what I can control." After that he ended the post-game press conference.

His senior forward, Payne, was asked about the small crowd and said, "We didn't really pay attention to it, really. We knew we had to create our own energy in a game like this. The people that did come we appreciate them. They people that will continue to come we appreciate them."

South Carolina coach Frank Martin said his team has struggled defensively in recent games and that didn't change at Auburn Arena.

There's not one guy that's been any good guarding the basketball," he said. "When you play teams like Auburn that have three guards that just attack you, you've got to be good on the ball. Whether we played triangle, zone or man, it doesn't matter. We don't guard the basketball. We aren't guarding the ball.

"In the game of basketball, if you don't put up a fight guarding the guy with the ball, you've got no chance," he added. "Unfortunately, that's what is happening to us right now."

Stat of the Game, Part 1: Auburn's normally anemic bench contributed 18 points and 10 rebounds.

Stat of the Game, Part 2: The Tigers held the Gamecocks to 36.7 percent shooting in the first half to build a lead they were able to increase in the second half even though the visitors hit 59.1 percent from the field in the second period to finish at 40.4 percent for the game.

Worth Noting, Part 2: Auburn swept the season series from the Gamecocks and will try to do the same thing vs. Alabama on Saturday in Tuscaloosa.

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