Sullivan's Big Game Not Enough for Tigers

With Tay Waller going trey-less and the entire team struggling on threes, Auburn fell to Florida in the SEC Tournament opening round.

Nashville, Tenn.--Frankie Sullivan, who normally finished his high school seasons with victories on state championship teams, said it wasn't that hard personally to end the season with a loss to Florida in the SEC Tournament.

However, the Auburn sophomore guard who scored a game-high 27 points was quick to add that what happened in his team's 78-69 loss to the Gators, was anything but easy to take.

"It wasn't really tough me, it was tough for the seniors because I felt their pain," Sullivan said. "I know they really wanted to win.

"I feel so bad for Tay Waller because his shot wasn't going to tonight and I feel so bad for DeWayne (Reed). Even though Tay's shot wasn't going he is a real competitor. He tried to do what it took to win by playing great defense and DeWayne is a competitor. He played hard. Lucas Hargrove is always trying to bring his "A" game.

"Unfortunately, tonight it just didn't happen for us," Sullivan added. "I don't know what happened. We were out of sync. Even though Tay shot the ball bad we still had a chance to win the game if we had just hit a couple of more shots."

Sullivan did his best to carry the offensive load when Waller came out cold and never warmed up. Auburn's hottest shooter in recent games, Waller was held scoreless. He was 0-6 from the field and 0-5 on threes.

Waller said he couldn't explain what happened. "I was making shots in warmups and in the game it felt good when I was shooting them, but they weren't going in," he said."

The senior said he deferred to Sullivan late in the game as the Tigers tried to reel in the Gators in the closing minutes. "Frankie was having a good game and he needed to have the ball more than I did," Waller said.

Auburn coach Jeff Lebo watched his team make just 4-25 three-pointers while Florida hit 7-15. He called that the difference in the game.

"I just feel bad for Tay Waller, who's a senior and who just couldn't get it going tonight offensively," Lebo said. "If you say we shoot 4-25 and Tay doesn't score a bucket and we still have a chance, I would have said you are crazy."

The Tigers ended their season with a 15-17 record while Florida improved to 21-11 and earned a second round game vs. Mississippi State.

"I am very proud of my team the way we competed against a very talented Florida team," Lebo said. "Obviously, one of the things that we have to do is shoot the ball well from three. That didn't happen tonight. We still managed to stay in the game."

Florida didn't put the Tigers away until the closing seconds. Lebo said Florida's ability to go to a very big lineup caused his team matchups problems when the Tigers didn't use their quickness to burn the Gators from three-point range.

"They played a lot of Parsons at the two where they were 6-8, 6-9, 6-10, 6-10 and we are 6-6, 6-8 back there a lot of times so they hurt us on it. We prepared a lot for it.

"We knew we were going to going to give up some of those things because you have to guard two things," Lebo said. "You have to guard their pick and roll, but you also have to guard the other big ducking in on the other side so they put you in a bind on that."

Florida hammered Auburn's defense in the first half with an effective outside and inside punch. Chandler Parsons loosened the defense by making all three of his treys on his way to scoring 13 first half points.

Forward Alex Tyus was the key inside force for the Gators in the first half with 12 points. He made five of his eight shots prior to intermission.

Auburn scored first on a backdoor layup by Sullivan on its first possession, but the Gators led almost the entire opening half after a Parsons bomb put Florida up 7-5.

The Gators doubled up the Tigers at 20-10 and 28-14 before the Tigers cut margin to 30-24 on an acrobatic fastbreak basket plus a free throw by Sullivan with 5:29 left in the half. However, by the break the Gators had stretched the lead to 40-31.

Tay Waller, Auburn's hottest player late in the season, struggled with his shooting on Thursday night.

At intermission the Gators were hitting a healthy 55.6 percent of their field goals including 4-6 threes and 6-7 free throws.

Auburn was just 12-29 from the field for 41.4 percent and the Tigers were just 2-14 on threes while hitting 5-7 free throws in the half.

The Gators enjoyed a 17-15 rebounding advantage at halftime and had five turnovers, one less than the Tigers.

The Tigers cut the lead to 40-39 on a layup and free throw by Sullivan with 16:09 left in the second half. However, the Gators then outscored the Tigers 12-2 prompting Lebo to call a timeout at the 12:51 mark to regroup.

Florida built its lead to 60-47 before the Tigers made another run and scored seven straight points, all by Sullivan, to narrow the gap to six points with 6:16 remaining.

The Tigers cut the lead to five on a Hargrove rebound basket with 1:57 left to make the score 68-63. However, that was as close as Auburn could get down the stretch.

Tyus led the Gators with 24 points and added five rebounds. He hit 11-16 field goals.

Parsons was efficient, too, scoring 21 points on just 12 field goals and adding six rebounds.

Vernon Macklin scored 10 for the Gators while point guard Erving Walker didn't make a field goal, but scored six points and seven rebounds. He also added six assists with just one turnover.

Reed scored 18 points for the Tigers and added five points and two assists, but made just 6-17 field goals.

Hargrove finished his college career with 11 points and nine rebounds. His backup, Kenny Gabriel, added six points for the Tigers while Brendon Knox scored five and freshman Ty Armstrong added two points and three rebounds.

For the game the Tigers made 45.2 percent of their field goals while Florida hit 49.1 percent. Auburn was 9-12 at the foul line while Florida made 17-21.

Auburn out-rebounded the Gators 35-32 and had 10 turnovers, three more than Florida. The Gators outscored the Tigers 15-4 in points scored after turnovers, another key statistic in the game.

Florida coach Billy Donovan said the Gators were fortunate that Waller cooled off from his hot streak. "We put a lot of time into that," Donovan said. "I?would say probably Jeff put an equal amount of time into probably doing the same thing to Erving Walker. And, Waller had a couple of good looks that he just didn't make."

Speaking slowly and carefully choosing his words, Waller tried to take the blame for the loss. "What kills me about this game is I know if I had done something offensively we would have won this game," he said.

News and Notes: Auburn's all-time record vs. the Gators is now (87-70)...Since the SEC Tournament was renewed in 1979, Auburn's record (23-30) and all-time it is (27-47)...Lebo used 11 players on Thursday night. Florida's Billy Donovan played just eight....Both teams had three steals. Auburn blocked four shots, Florida blocked three...In the opening game on Thursday Alabama (17-14) rallied from an 18-point deficit in the second half to defeat South Carolina 68-63 and advance to a round two game vs. No. 1 seed Kentucky. With the loss the Gamecocks finished the season 15-16...The Tide had a stretch of six minutes and eight seconds in the first half without scoring a field goal...In the other afternoon game Tennessee (24-7) was sluggish, but pulled away late to defeat LSU 59-49 to earn a second round matchup vs. Ole Miss. Tennessee's 16-4 run with the game tied 30-30 in the second half gave the Vols enough cushion to hang on despite a late comeback by LSU which finished the season 11-20...LSU's 49 points was its second lowest total of the season. The Tigers scored just 38 in a loss to Alabama on January 27th. Wayne Chism scored Tennessee's first seven points. The Vols were so cold offensively that the next player to score was J.P. Prince with 8:21 left in the opening half.

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