AP photo by Todd Van Emst|
Auburn's Josh Dollard (3) shoots over Arkansas' Charles Thomas (3) and Steven Hill in the first half of the Tigers' 67-59 win in Auburn on Wednesday night.
Auburn ends losing skid at Hogs' expense
By Bradley Handwerger
firstname.lastname@example.org · 340-2462
AUBURN — Leading by five points with a precious six seconds remaining in the first half, Auburn's Quantez Robertson came flying into the lane, grabbing hold of the ball in midair
after a carom and pushing it back inside the cylinder.
Robertson's bucket came with three seconds remaining in the first half, but it was a snapshot of how Auburn owned Arkansas all night.
It also helped the Tigers end a four-game losing streak, as Auburn held off the Razorbacks 67-59 in front of 4,551 fans at Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum.
"In a lot of ways, this game was simple," Arkansas head coach Stan Heath said. "They beat us on the glass. ... That was the biggest difference in the game."
Auburn outrebounded 43-31, including 18-8 on the offensive board.
For Auburn head coach Jeff Lebo and his players, who improved to 15-13 and 5-8 in the SEC, it was about time the Tigers figured out the whole rebounding thing.
"We did a nice job on the glass," Lebo said. "We've been focusing on the two seconds that ball is in the air. In SEC play, we've gotten beat there. We're going to get beat some there because we're not very big, but we won that battle."
The milestones weren't left to merely the play on the court.
Auburn's five conference wins are the most since the 2003-04 season when the Tigers went 5-11, and the 15 overall wins are the most since the 2002-'03 squad went 22-6.
And now, with three games to go in the regular season, Auburn, some how, some way, is still alive for a decent seed in March's SEC tournament.
The Tigers are now in a tie for fourth with Arkansas (16-11, 5-8), a game behind Alabama (19-8, 6-7), and two games behind co-leaders Ole Miss (18-9, 7-6) and Mississippi State (16-10, 7-6).
"I can't even explain how important it is," said Auburn's Josh Dollard, who finished with 18 points. "We really needed this win. ... We'd lost four straight, and now we've got the monkey off our backs."
Added Frank Tolbert, who finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds for his first career double-double: "It's big. Gives us our confidence back that we can win."
So how did it happen?
Auburn started off down 3-0 in the first two minutes. It wouldn't trail in the game again after Tolbert tied it at 3 on a trey. A 15-2 run eventually gave the Tigers a 15-5 lead five and a half minutes into the game.
But it was long from over.
Arkansas stayed in the game despite shooting only 36 percent in the opening half because Auburn could do no better, hitting on a paltry 32.4 percent of its shots.
Six times in the second half the Razorbacks cut the Auburn lead to four, and once they got it to three at 59-56 with 1:28 to play.
Nevertheless, Auburn wouldn't allow Arkansas to get any closer because, of all things, it hit its free-throw shots down the stretch.
Auburn went 8-of-10 from the foul line, helping to extend the lead back out to eight with 43 seconds to play.
"W e've been better recently in conference play," Lebo said. "It was jut a confidence thing I think."
Korvotney Barber added 12 points and 14 rebounds for Auburn.
Patrick Beverly led Arkansas with 16 points and Darian Townes had 13.
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