Dec. 14, 2011
Auburn -- Frankie Sullivan and Chris Denson each scored 12 points as Auburn defeated South Florida 52-40 in Auburn Arena on Wednesday after an 11-day layoff to improve to 5-1 for its best start in seven years. Varez Ward added 11 points and six rebounds while Kenny Gabriel had seven points, a team-best eight rebounds and three steals.
"When you are off for so many days, you lose that game sharpness," head coach Tony Barbee said. "I liked the way we responded. We didn't let our lack of offense in the first 10 minutes bury us. We still guarded and rebounded. You have to win what I call a `grind out' game, and tonight was one of those. I am proud of the fact that the guys responded. They made free throws, made plays and made shots when we needed them."
Auburn held USF (6-5) to 40 points - the fewest for an opponent since Alabama A&M scored 40 on December 29, 2008. The Tigers set season-high marks for free throws made by going 15-of-18 for 83.3 percent.
Ward connected on Auburn's first 3-pointer of the night with 1:36 to go in the opening half as the Tigers pulled within one. Sullivan's layup was sandwiched by a pair of blocks by Willy Kouassi as Auburn took its first lead, 21-20 at the half. The Tigers did not trail again.
Auburn bridged a 13-2 run over the last minute of the first half through the break to take a 29-22 lead. The Tigers then opened their lead to 37-29 on a layup by Sullivan with 11:16 remaining. Sullivan's first trey, followed by a floater from Denson, capped a 14-3 run and gave Auburn a 45-32 advantage with 6:47 to go.
"We held this team to a low scoring game," Denson said. "All week we just focused on defense, and we just have to get better on the offensive end. That's what our main focus is on right now. I think we have the defense down pat, but I think the layoff helped us a lot in that category."
South Florida scored the first seven points of the game, but the Bulls then went more than eight minutes without a basket as Auburn closed to within 9-8. Augustus Gilchrist scored 10 of South Florida's first 15 points as the Bulls held a 15-10 lead. Gilchrist, who was the lone Bull in double figures, didn't score again after the 6:04 mark of the first half.
The Tigers are in action next on Saturday when they host North Florida at 7 pm Central at Auburn Arena.