March 13, 2013
By Charles Goldberg
NASHVILLE, Tennessee -- The Auburn quarterback sent out the call in the second half. "Everybody watch the end of the Auburn bball game," Kiehl Frazier tweeted.
Something was up, to be sure, but the basketball Tigers couldn't find a happy ending to its difficult season. Down by 3 with seven minutes left, Texas A&M bounced Auburn out of the SEC Tournament with a 71-62 first-round victory late into a Wednesday night in Bridgestone Arena.
Auburn ended its season with a 9-23 record after a game of hot streaks, cold stretches and a comeback that saw the Tigers tied with 11 minutes remaining, within 3 four minutes later and still within striking range down 58-53 with 2 minutes left and again at 62-57 with 54 seconds remaining.
It was a 4-point deficit with 33 seconds left.
"It's disappointing that we had opportunities to win our fair share of games this year, but we couldn't get over the hump," said coach Tony Barbee.
Frankie Sullivan finished his Auburn career with a team-high 19 points and finishing eighth on the Tigers' all-time scoring list with 1,556 points.
"It really hit me in the locker room especially after fighting so hard, knowing we could have won the game," Sullivan said. "Everything has come to an end. I just hate I have to leave Auburn. I love it here."
Texas A&M improved to 18-14 and advanced to a Thursday tournament game against Missouri, which received a first-round bye. The Tigers headed home, finishing the regular season with an overtime loss -- their third in the season -- and following that with the loss to A&M. Barbee said he didn't look back as the season played out.
"We haven't replayed it at all. You have to look ahead," he said. "I'll spend time reflecting on it -- why things went the way it did, and try to do better. That's all we can do.
"There's a lot of disappointment and frustration in that locker room. I told everybody that I'm the coach of the program, I'm leading the ship, and it all falls on me."
Barbee said rebounding was the difference. He saw that early. Texas A&M outrebounded Auburn 18-9 in the first half and 36-24 for the game. The Tigers had only four offensive rebounds.
"It was the No. 1 key for the game," Barbee said.
The game started with promise for the Tigers. Auburn scored 13 points in the first four minutes. But Texas A&M was with the Tigers every step of the way, tying the score within a minute and scoring 14 straight as Auburn lost its outside shot.
A late Auburn surge cut A&M's halftime advantage to 34-27. The Tigers opened the second half with another nice run, stretching their hot streak into a 13-2 run to cut A&M's lead to 36-34. A minute later, the Aggies were up 41-34.
"We dug ourselves a little hole, but we continued to fight," Barbee said.