Big Night From Knox As Tigers Beat Hornets

Brendon Knox scored a career high in points as Auburn defeated Alabama State 94-78 Tuesday night.

Auburn, Ala.--Brendon Knox scored a career-high 18 points and Auburn made 26-34 free throws to help defeat a scrappy Alabama State (2-8) team 94-78 at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum. After falling 107-89 to Sam Houston State in their last outing, the Tigers (6-6) were determined to rebound and Knox was the key to that turnaround Tuesday night.

"We needed this game," Knox said. "The Sam Houston game was such a big disappointment. We needed this game to rebound and bounce back and get back established. I think things will get better from here on out. The Sam Houston game was a wake-up call to us."

With a decided size advantage over the smaller Hornets, Knox went over, around and through Alabama State's defense. Making 7-9 shots from the field and 4-7 from the free throw line, Knox said it was important for him to be more aggressive offensively after scoring just four points in Sunday's loss.

"The last couple of games I wasn't working hard enough to get the ball in the middle," Knox said. "This game I saw the opportunity because they weren't that big. I saw that as an opportunity to post up and take advantage of them."

Knox was one of four Tigers in double figures as seniors DeWayne Reed added 15, Lucas Hargrove 14 and Tay Waller 13 respectively. Frankie Sullivan added nine points and a team-high six rebounds while Kenny Gabriel and Andre Malone came off the bench to score eight points each.

"I really like what we did offensively tonight," Coach Jeff Lebo said. "I thought we did get the ball inside where we wanted to go. We were able to keep Knox in the game. He was good inside. We were very efficient offensively. We either got to the foul line or got a high percentage look offensively."

That offensive production came on a night when the Tigers were red hot from the floor. Shooting 62 percent for the game, Auburn made 31-50 shots overall and 6-17 from three-point range. It's a good thing the Tigers shot as well as they did because Alabama State came to play.

Despite shooting just 36.1 percent in the first half and making only 2-14 three-point shots, the Hornets turned things around in the final 20 minutes as they made 15-28 shots overall and 8-11 from behind the arc to stay within striking distance until late. Smaller than the Tigers, Alabama State had two more rebounds than the Tigers with 16 coming on the offensive end.

"We're good at bringing out some shooting in other people," Lebo said. "They shot poorly from three the first half and they're not a very good shooting team off their statistics. In the second half they made 8-11 and eight of their first nine."

One of the key reserves for Auburn on Tuesday night was redshirt freshman point guard Josh Wallace. With Reed playing just 23 minutes because of foul problems, Wallace responded with five points, one assist and no turnovers in 10 minutes of action. Lebo said the Pensacola native was huge for Auburn because he provided a calming influence off the bench.

"He was a factor with his quickness," Lebo said. "We had to get an extra ball-handler out there. Reed only played 23 minutes which is 10 less than he normally does. I thought Josh was confident when he got in the game. He gave us some quickness and ball-handling."

The first half was anything but beautiful as the two teams combined for 28 fouls as the Tigers took a 46-33 lead into the break. Trading baskets for the first five minutes of the game, Alabama State actually held the lead at 12-11 on a free throw from Tramaine Butler. That was the last time the Hornets would see the lead on this night.

Four Hargrove free throws surrounded a Waller three in the next three minutes as Auburn built the lead to six before a Robert Sanders basket made it 18-14 Tigers. Another five-point run pushed the lead to nine and it would climb to 11 moments later when a Reed layup made the score 27-16.

Building the lead at the free throw line thanks to 17 fouls in the first half by Alabama State, Auburn went ahead 34-21 on a traditional three-point play by Reed. On the next trip Knox began to assert himself with an easy basket in the paint to give his team a 15-point cushion. Those were two of eight consecutive points for Auburn by Knox as the Tigers kept the lead at double figures over the Hornets. Leading by 11 with seconds left in the half, Reed drove the lane and rolled in a short runner with two seconds left to put Auburn up 13 at intermission. The Tigers held a commanding lead despite being outrebounded 22-13 in the first half and 12-1 in offensive rebounds.

Knox had 13 points to lead all scorers at the break while Reed added 11 and Hargrove 10 for the Tigers. Auburn made 15-18 from the charity stripe and 15-24 from the floor for one of its best shooting halves of the year.

The second half started with two ASU free throws before a Waller three put Auburn up by 15. A Knox basket with 17:04 remaining in the game put the Tigers up 51-34, the largest lead of the game. After that the Hornets decided to shoot lights out and Auburn played well to keep the lead at double figures for much of the contest. Making three three-point baskets in just one minute, Alabama State cut the lead down to just nine with 11:52 left in the game.

Auburn eventually built the lead back to 16 with just over eight minutes remaining on a Malone bucket, but the Hornets wouldn't go away. With the lead still at 15 with 3:29 left following two Reed free throws, Menji Mundadi scored five consecutive points in a minute to cut the lead back to 10. That's as close as it would get the rest of the way as the Tigers salted away a 94-78 victory.

Auburn returns to action on Dec. 29 when the Tigers face Charleston Southern at 7 p.m. at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

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