Dec. 17, 2011
AUBURN - Varez Ward scored 17 points and Kenny Gabriel recorded his first double-double of the season with 15 points and 13 rebounds as Auburn basketball defeated North Florida 84-71 on Saturday in Auburn Arena for the program's best start in eight years. Chris Denson's 14 points and Frankie Sullivan's 13 made it four Tigers in double-figures while Rob Chubb set a career high with 12 rebounds to go along with nine rebounds.
"I am pleased that we won," head coach Tony Barbee said. "North Florida is a good team. We were playing catch up tonight and trying to match their intensity. We are 6-1 and the guys are working hard. I keep telling them that I want more. It is not about beating North Florida. It is about long-term for the rest of the season. If they want more, they have to do more. They have to play harder with more focus and intensity from start to finish."
Sullivan was fouled on a 3-point attempt and sank all three free throws with 2:33 left to extend the Tigers' lead to 76-69. Ward then tacked on three free throws over two possessions as Auburn claimed its first double-digit lead of the game. Josh Langford converted a three-point play for an 84-71 lead with less than a minute to go that capped a 13-2 Auburn run.
Auburn sank 8-of-9 free throws in the final 2:33 to solidify the win as it improved to 6-1 for the first time since the 2003-04 season. The Tigers shot 67 percent (12-of-18) from the floor after halftime.
Auburn and UNF traded 3-pointers with 11 minutes left in the first half to knot the game at 20. The Ospreys took a 34-31 lead on a 3-pointer by Jerron Granberry with 2:39 to go before the half - their first lead since an early 6-4 advantage.
The Tigers used a 6-0 mini-run over the final 1:30 of the first half to take a 39-36 lead into halftime.
Langford's first basket of the season was Auburn's first basket in more than four minutes, and it gave the Tigers a 47-43 lead with 14 minutes left. Three different times Auburn was able to widen its lead to nine points, and each time North Florida fought back before the Tigers were finally able to pull away.
"North Florida came out, and they were really disrespected," Ward said. "I knew Coach (Barbee) said they were going to come out hard, but going into that game, I don't think we had the right mindset in the first half, and we had to pick it up in the second half to recover from our first half."
Travis Wallace led North Florida (5-6) with 13 points.
Auburn is in action next on Monday when it hosts Florida A&M at 7 pm Central in Auburn Arena.