By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn's leading scorers were on the bench in foul trouble, but point guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen knew just what to do.
Shoot the basketball, just like his coach said.
Shamsid-Deen scored a career-high 14 points in the first half while waiting for Chris Denson and KT Harrell to come around in a 78-73 win over Tennessee State in Auburn Arena on Tuesday night.
"Before the game, coach called a lot of us out," Shamsid-Deen said. "He was like, `Chris and KT can't be the only guys scoring in double figures', so we saw an opportunity to be aggressive, and we knew we needed points. We stepped up."
Denson and Harrell didn't score a point in a first half in which they each only played six minutes. But Denson, the SEC's leading scorer came on to finish with a team-high 17 and Harrell closed with 14 points. Shamsid-Deen added just two more to finish with 16. But he had done his good work early.
"I need him to be more aggressive offensively," said coach Tony Barbee.
But not just Shamsid-Deen.
"I challenged them all. This just can't be the Chris and KT Show," Barbee said.
Auburn improved to 4-1 and Tennessee State fell to 0-7, but not before throwing a scare into Auburn when it closed to 72-70 with 36 seconds left.
"You're playing against a team that is 0-6 you know they're going to fight their tails off to try to get a win," Barbee said. "We came a little flat. I don't know if we were thinking of the Thanksgiving break or whatever the case may be. We've got to bring the energy. I thought they brought the energy to us."
Auburn hit 30 of 37 free throw tries, and that came in handy considering Tennessee State hit 56.5 percent of their shots from the field. Barbee said the free throws "saved us tonight."
The free throws helped cover up defensive mistakes.
"I'm not happy the way we played," said forward Allen Payne. "I'm not happy how I played individually, how we played as a team, especially on the defensive end of the floor, giving up 56 ½ percent shooting. That's unacceptable for this team."
But Barbee got the balanced and deep scoring he wants. Auburn had four players bunched in double figures: Denson's 17, Shamsid-Deen's 16, Harrell's 14 and Payne's 13. Nine players scored in all.
Auburn will take Wednesday off and meet again Thursday night. The Tigers will practice for three days in Auburn before traveling to Iowa State for a Monday night game in Ames. The Cyclones are 5-0.
"That's why you have veteran players, to lean on when go in environments like Iowa State," Barbee said.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine