Jan. 2, 2013
A 14-2 run by the Seminoles (8-5) gave them a 21-10 lead with 12 minutes left in the first half. The run came on the heels of a Payne layup that had put Auburn (6-7) on top 8-7 in the early minutes. Florida State hit eight of its first 10 field goal attempts to start the game and fuel the run.
"We didn't get some shots to go down," Auburn head coach Tony Barbee said. "We got some really good looks. I just said if we'll keep being patient and keep attacking and working for the best shot, they'll eventually go down. It's one thing I've been preaching to these guys, whether you run the best offense or not or you play the greatest defense, it's about fighting. It is about fighting. It translates from basketball to life. No matter what's happening, there's going to be adversity hit.
"Now we have some severe adversity with Jordan Price and Chris Denson being out. You have two choices when that hits. You can tuck your head and walk away, or you can fight. These guys have really understood and they've been buying into it all year long, but the last few games, they've really done a really good job of continuing to fight no matter the outcome."
Price missed the Illinois game and Denson was ruled out prior to the matchup with Florida State, both with stress fractures.
Auburn forced consecutive turnovers and got baskets from Payne and Rob Chubb to close the gap to six. Sullivan's fast-break layup made it 26-22 with 5:31 left before the half. The basket by Sullivan capped an 8-0 run for the Tigers.
Tough defense by the Tigers forced Florida State into 20 turnovers on the night, while Auburn committed just nine. Josh Wallace led the way with a career-best five steals to go with six points, six assists and five rebounds in his first start since Murray State on November 15.
"[Turnover total] was really good, and it wouldn't have been nine if we hadn't have had some bonehead decisions in the last two or three minutes," Barbee said. "It would've been even lower. I told those guys before the game; I put a lot of stuff on the board, but I said if we finish this game with 20 turnovers, we lose it. If we finish this with 10 or less, we win it. We finished with nine. I thought we were strong with the ball as they were aggressive on the ball with their pressure."
The Tigers closed the first half in a flurry with a 10-3 run that was punctuated emphatically by a Shaq Johnson dunk as time expired to cut the Auburn deficit to 36-35 at the half.
Payne was fouled on a trey and sank all three free throws with 46 seconds gone in the second half to give the Tigers their first lead since the game was 8-7. Two by Chubb put Auburn in front 42-40 with 18 minutes remaining.
Auburn made it a 9-0 run to take a 47-40 lead. Payne sank a free throw with 11:16 to go to give Auburn a 55-48 lead.
Shaq Johnson hit a jumper at the foul line with 8:13 remaining in the second half for Auburn's first field goal in nearly six minutes of game time. The basket was the first since Noel Johnson hit a 3-pointer with 13:54 remaining. Shaq Johnson's two gave the Tigers a 59-51 lead.
Noel Johnson's second triple widened Auburn's advantage to double figures for the first time at 62-51 with 7:27 to go. FSU kept battling though and Aaron Thomas cut the Tigers' lead down to seven with three minutes left.
Following two free throws by Wallace, the Tigers led by 12 with 1:22 remaining. On the whole, Auburn struggled at the line in the final two minutes allowing the Seminoles to creep back in and Devon Bookert's trey with 1.4 left cut the Tigers' lead to 78-72. The Tigers hit just 12-of-20 at the line in the final 2:01.
Michael Snaer led the Seminoles with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Terry Whisnant added 16 points.
Wednesday's win comes on the heels of FSU defeating the Tigers 86-56 a season ago in Tallahassee. Rob Chubb had eight points and 10 rebounds. Sullivan had his streak of consecutive made free throws end at 21 with a miss late in the second half.
Auburn is in action next on January 9 in Auburn Arena when it opens SEC play against LSU. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. and the game will be televised on CSS.