Frankie Sullivan scored 20 of his 24 points in the second half to lead Auburn to a 55-51 victory over College of Charleston in the second round of the ESPN Charleston Classic presented by Foster Grant on Friday night at TD Arena.
Sullivan had to leave Thursday night's loss to Murray State and get stitches after opening a cut on his right arm when he crashed into the scorer's table. He was back and on target for the Tigers (2-1), although sporting a black wrap over the affected area. Sullivan scored Auburn's first 14 points of the second half as the Tigers built an 40-32 lead and held on.
Auburn will face Dayton for fifth place on Sunday, while Charleston (1-2) tries to avoid losing three straight on its home floor when it plays Boston College for seventh in the eight-team tournament.
Anthony Stitt had 11 points and Adjehi Baru had 11 rebounds to lead the Cougars.
The Tigers had to withstand a few tense moments at the end. College of Charleston cut Auburn's lead to three points three times in the final minute, but could not get closer. Shareif Adamu and Sullivan each made two foul shots and Noel Johnson one to keep Auburn out front.
Adamu and Johnson each had 11 points for the Tigers.
Auburn was much sharper against College of Charleston than it was in a 79-59 loss to Murray State here on Thursday night. In that one, the Tigers trailed 27-10 in the game's first 12 minutes and were eventually down by 36 points.
Against the Cougars, Auburn didn't have a turnover the first 17 minutes. Still, the Tigers left for the locker room trailing 23-22.
College of Charleston was also looking for a positive performance after falling out of the winner's bracket on its home court with a 64-53 loss to St. John's.
The Cougars' defense took control of things in the opening half, holding Auburn's shooters to less than 26 percent shooting. It might've been worse if the Tigers' Noel Johnson hadn't hit three 3-pointers and scored 11 points in the period.
Auburn moved in front 22-19 on Johnson's final three of the half. But, Trent Wiedeman followed with a dunk and Stitt made two foul shots to give the Cougars their halftime lead.
CofC and the rest of the tournament field will enjoy a bye day on Saturday. The Cougars will prepare for its third game in four days against the likes of another major-conference opponent in Boston College (1-2) on Sunday, Nov. 18 at noon (ET) at TD Arena. The game will be carried on ESPN3 via WatchESPN.com.
· For the first time this season, the Cougars used the starting lineup of sophomore Anthony Stitt, junior Nori Johnson, junior Anthony Thomas, sophomore Adjehi Baru and junior Trent Wiedeman. It marked Johnson's 16th career start and first of the season.
· Auburn extended its undefeated win streak in the all-time series to 3-0 and avoided being the second SEC opponent in two years to fall to the Cougars on their home court at TD Arena.
· Adjehi Baru brought down his third double-figure rebounding game of his career with a game-high 11 boards.
· The Cougars won the battle of the boards for the third-straight game against Auburn, 42-26 (+16).
· Senior point guard Andrew Lawrence did not start for the first time in 33 consecutive games after starting all 31 during the 2011-12 season. Lawrence was entered into the official book at the start of the game with hopes of him returning in the second half. He did not play due to a stomach virus.
· Senior forward Matt Sundberg came off the bench and scored eight points in just 10 minutes of action. He went 3-of-5 from the field, 1-of-2 from beyond the arc and 1-for-1 from the charity stripe. Sundberg also added three rebounds and one steal to keep the Cougars in the game with the Tigers.
· The Auburn defense forced CofC to commit a season-high 19 turnovers in the ballgame.
· Freshman Theo Johnson made a career-high three blocked shots and continues to the lead the team in the category with seven on the season.
College of Charleston Head Coach Doug Wojcik
On the game …
"For us, it's a disappointing night in the sense that we lose. Turnovers became an issue as well and certainly the free throws. The fact we didn't have our one senior (Andrew Lawrence) tonight, who was playing with a lot of experience – it really affects our team. We only had one primary ball handler tonight in Anthony Stitt. God bless him and his efforts. He had to play a lot of minutes. We managed pretty well in the first half. We are doing a great job defensively and a great job rebounding the ball, we're just not scoring it. We have to get better. This is my third ESPN tournament. Three games in four days – it's a grind. You have to have depth and have athletes. Right now, we've had a little bit of bad luck."
On the contributions of Matt Sundberg off the bench against Auburn …
"Matt was our MVP and sparked us tonight. He did a great job and has been extremely patient. Bottom line, he had a concussion for almost two weeks and is now back. He will help us and there will be a lot more guys on our team to help us. Tonight he did a great job for us off the bench."
College of Charleston Sophomore Point Guard Anthony Stitt
On the game and the loss of Andrew Lawrence in the lineup …
"We were just missing another ball handler which added to our turnovers. We just didn't have somebody out there to deal with some of the pressure. He's (Andrew Lawrence) a great ball handler and a great teammate, so we missed him tonight. I think we're really good defensively. Defense isn't our problem. We outrebounded both teams and played good defense, we just have to get it clicking on offense. Give credit to Auburn, they did a good job getting back. They were in a zone, but they switched to a press just to try to slow us down, which definitely affected the game."
College of Charleston Senior Forward Matt Sundberg
On the loss of Andrew Lawrence in the lineup and the loss to Auburn …
"I think missing him was pretty tough. We all had to step it up big time and it was a huge key for our game, but I think we all did pretty well as a team. We just couldn't finish at the end. We were 10-of-18 from the free throw line, we missed eight free throws, we should be more like 15-of-18. We had 19 turnovers. That's too many. I had six myself and that's too many. We just need to get better. We just couldn't hit shots at the end, we had set-up plays and they were trying to switch every screen, so it was tough for us to get open and run plays like that. It's frustrating for sure, but we need to keep our heads up and keep playing with confidence. That's what our coaches keep telling us, ‘keep playing with confidence and shots will fall soon enough.'"
Auburn Head Coach Tony Barbee
On the game …
"I knew my seniors would be mentally tough, especially after coming off a tough game like we had last night (against Murray State). Our guys really responded. Our shoot around was spirited. They played with a purpose on the floor offensively and defensively. We didn't do that the first night. We could have been flat tonight and let it affect our performance. But, they came in with a mentality that we were going to play tough, hard and physical."