Nov. 21, 2010
Auburn - Auburn overcame a 17 point deficit behind Earnest Ross' career-high 22 points to defeat Middle Tennessee State 68-66 for the first win of the Coach Tony Barbee era in the Global Sports Hoops Showcase in Auburn Arena on Sunday.
Trailing 32-15 with 7:09 left in the first half, Auburn (1-3) held Middle Tennessee (2-3) to only three points in 13:23 as the Tigers used a 28-3 run to take a 43-35 lead with 14:06 remaining on a layup by Rob Chubb, who finished with a career-high 13 points in 20 minutes.
"It feels good, but it's like I told the guys once I got back in the locker room and they're going crazy, `Guess what? Remember this feeling because winning feels a whole lot better than losing,'" said Auburn head coach Tony Barbee.
"Again like I told the guys, this is going to be a long season. It's going to be a marathon not a sprint. It's going to be a season of learning, and when you have a young team and inexperienced team like I have, there are going to be some ups and there's going to be some downs."
Auburn increased its lead to as much as 53-41 on a conventional 3-point play by freshman Allen Payne with 11:10 remaining. Middle Tennessee tied the game at 60 with 3:50 to go, but Ross answered with a 3-pointer to give the Tigers the lead for good.
"Our mentality was, you can't give up and you've got to have heart," said Ross. "The guys that we have, we never give up, we keep fighting to the end of the bell, the end of the noise, whatever it is, we have to go out there and give it hard.
"We could have easily laid down, but Coach Barbee kept pushing us mentally, and was like `you know you guys can't lie down. We are tired of losing, and the guys that we have, we just keep playing hard to the end' and that's what happened. We had to come back and win the game.
However, things were far from over. A pair of Josh Wallace free throws with 39 seconds left gave Auburn a 68-62 lead. MTSU's James Washington sank a 3-pointer to cut the lead in half with 24 seconds remaining, and Kenny Gabriel tried to throw the inbounds pass to Chubb but the ball went untouched and out of bounds.
Getting the ball under the Auburn basket, the Blue Raiders missed a pair of 3-pointers by Washington, who finished with a game-high 25 points on 4-of-7 three-pointers, and James Gallman. MTSU's Trevor Ottley was fouled on the rebound and went to the foul line with :00.9 seconds on the clock.
Ottley made the first and missed the second intentionally but Payne rebounded the ball to preserve the Auburn win.
Middle Tennessee scored the first seven points of the game and used a 19-7 run to take its 32-15 lead. Auburn began to chip away and ended the first half on a 16-2 run to trail 34-31 at intermission.
The Tigers outshot Middle Tennessee 45.3 percent to 42.0 percent but only went 4-of-13 (.308) from 3-point range and 16-of-28 (.571) from the foul line. The Blue Raiders shot 42.9 percent (9-of-21) from behind the arc and 15-of-21 (.714) free throws.
Auburn outrebounded Middle Tennessee by a whopping 40-27 advantage and outscored MTSU 16-8 on second chance points and 28-12 in the paint. The Tigers committed only 10 turnovers, including only three in the second half.
Gabriel had 11 rebounds and six points for Auburn while Payne chipped in nine points and Andre Malone, a member of the all-tournament team averaging 17.0 points for the three games, added six points and seven boards.
JT Sulton chipped in 17 points for Middle Tennessee.
Auburn returns to action as it plays host to Jacksonville on Saturday at 7 pm Central in Auburn Arena.