Stagger to the finish line

LSU falters on defense, struggles to hits shots from inside arc in 67-52 loss.

Auburn, Ala. – Frankie Sullivan and Auburn came out of halftime with simple instructions from Coach Tony Barbee: Just hoop. In other words, be aggressive and make plays, however you can.

Sullivan made plenty of them in matching his season high with 22 points and Auburn snapped a three-game losing streak with a 67-52 victory over LSU on Saturday in the regular-season finale for both teams.

Sullivan scored nine straight points to help Auburn (15-15, 5-11 SEC) take control early in the second half and hand LSU (17-13, 7-9) its third consecutive defeat.

"I was just being aggressive," Sullivan said. "Coach told us to come out in the second half and just hoop so that the seniors can go out on a good note. That's what I tried to do.

"I got hot for a second, and they kept coming to me so I was just trying to knock down shots."

Kenny Gabriel scored 14 points in his home finale for Auburn, which had lost six of seven games, and Chris Denson had 12, making 8-of-12 free throws.

Trent Johnson

Ralston Turner led LSU with 14 points while John Isaac had 9. LSU had a chance to complete a turnaround with a .500 league mark after winning just five SEC games the previous two seasons combined, but couldn't get much offense going. LSU was on a four-game winning streak before stumbling in the stretch run.

"They were the aggressor and I thought they were the better team from start to finish," LSU coach Trent Johnson said. "There were some times when we tried to do it by ourselves individually. They were the better team. They played harder."

LSU was just 17-of-50 shooting (34%) despite going 9 of 17 (52.9%) from 3-point range.

Auburn, which shot 52.2% (12 of 23) in the first half, opened the second on an 11-2 run to take a 45-31 lead 5 minutes in.

Sullivan, who rebounded from a 4-of-14 performance at Alabama, went on his solo spurt during that stretch. Auburn pushed the lead to 49-34 on Gabriel's jump shot with 11:08 to play.

"When you have that kind of lead, you want to come out and establish a separation in those first 4 or 5 minutes," Barbee said. "We were able to do that. I told Frankie and those seniors to be aggressive in those first 4 or 5 minutes.

"Frankie went out there and hooped for the first 5 minutes. He made basketball plays off of the plays we were running."

LSU managed to cut the margin to 52-45 on Isaac's second 3-pointer of the half with 5:06 left before the comeback fizzled.

LSU went more than 3 minutes without making a field goal after that.

Auburn, the league's No. 11 foul-shooting team, hit 15 of 18 free throws down the stretch to keep the lead in double digits and continue expanding the cushion. AU 23-of-31 from the line in the game, a 74.2% clip.

"We didn't do a good job of guarding them," Turner said. "Last time they made it tough on us so we knew it was going to be a tough game. We give credit to them, but we had a few breakdowns that cost us and we could never get back in it."

Johnson called a timeout in the final minute and said he stressed to his players that "we've got to put that (losing streak) behind us and get ready for a new season."

"That's what tournaments are, a new season, a fresh start," he said.

Auburn forced 17 turnovers and committed just 10.

LSU's starting frontcourt, Justin Hamilton and Johnny O'Bryant, struggled offensively. They were a combined 3-of-16 shooting for 11 points. Backup forward Storm Warren missed his three attempts and had one point.

"For the first time all year, all three of our post guys had opportunities and didn't make plays," Johnson said. "That was uncharacteristic."

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