Hot-Shooting Razorbacks Edge Tigers

Arkansas held off Auburn in the conference opener at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn couldn't hit critical three-point baskets in the closing minutes helping hot-shooting Arkansas to escape Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum with a 76-70 victory in the men's SEC basketball opener for both teams on Thursday night.

The Razorbacks made 57.7 percent of their shots, including 62.5 percent in the second half in the nationally-televised game as they improved to 12-3 while Auburn fell to 9-4.

Just as damaging to the Tigers was the Razorbacks' three-point accuracy as the visitors hit 9-19 behind the arc.

"My kids battled their tails off," Auburn coach Jeff Lebo said. "They were just absolutely incredible out there battling.

"Our identity now is that we have to make shots," said Lebo, whose team made 41 percent of its field goals. The Tigers put up 35 three-pointers, but made just nine.

"It's not our strength, but we have got to be able to make shots. We had some great looks in the game. Going 9-35 and still having a chance to win, we battled on the glass for the most part. Defensively, we had issues. They wanted to pound it in there. They were effective in it, but I thought our kids battled hard."

Surprisingly, Auburn more than held its own on the boards vs. the taller Razorbacks, holding a 33-32 edge.

The Tigers got 21 points from Rasheem Barrett, who was 8-18 from the field, but just 2-10 on threes.

Frank Tolbert scored 17 for the Tigers, making 6-11 shots including 2-4 threes. Tolbert added nine rebounds to lead the Tigers.

Frank Tolbert played well for the Tigers.

Quan Prowell scored 13 for the Tigers and Lucas Hargrove came off the bench to add 10 points and six rebounds in 16 minutes. The only other Auburn sub, Matt Heramb, did not score or get a rebound in nine minutes of action.

Patrick Beverly and Sonny Weems, who hit the key baskets in the closing minutes to preserve the lead, led the Razorbacks with 17 points apiece. Charles Thomas added 14 for Coach John Pelphrey's team.

"We played pretty good as a team," Beverly said. "Auburn was doubling our post guys a lot so I open a lot and took advantage of the shots I had.

"Auburn is a really good team, but injuries are really hurting them," Beverly added. "In the first half they were playing great team basketball and hitting a lot of shots. I feel that because of all the injuries they didn't have as much engery in the second half, but they kept fighting and made it hard for us to win."

The Tigers got off to a solid start, taking their first lead at 7-6 on a free throw by Barrett. Auburn built the lead to 16-11 on a three-pointer by Barrett, but the Razorbacks evened the score at 18-18.

The Tigers then went on a 10-2 run to pull ahead 28-20 on a fastbreak basket by Quantez Robertson following a turnover.

However, the Tigers couldn't hold the lead. The Razorbacks tied the game at 33-33 with 2:23 left in the half and took a 37-36 lead into intermission.

Rasheem Barrett hits a jump shot.

Auburn hit 13-28 first half shots including 5-15 threes. and 5-7 free throws. Auburn was 5-7 at the foul line and turned the ball over eight times, one more than the Razorbacks.

Arkansas hit 15-28 first half shots including 5-12 threes and 2-4 free throws. The Razorbacks were out-rebounded 16-14 in the first 20 minutes.

Beverly led the Razorbacks at the break with 12 points while Barrett scored 10 for the Tigers.

Auburn took the lead to start the second half on a three-pointer by Barrett, but Arkansas regained the advantage on a three by Weems at the 18:04 mark and never trailed after that.

Auburn stayed in striking and tied the game at 52-52 with 9:52 on a jumper by Barrett, but couldn't get over the hump.

The Tigers had a chance to tie the game late trailing 73-70, Robertson and Prowell missed threes in the final minute to the disappointment of a crowd of 6,079.

Commenting on Auburn's play, Weems said, "They showed a lot of heart out there. Auburn has a lot of key injuries this season so that makes it harder for them to go out and win. They rebounded hard and never gave up and I respect them for that."

Auburn has a quick turn-around as the Tigers flew out of Auburn after the game for Gainesville where they will play the Florida Gators at 11 a.m. CST on Saturday.

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