AUBURN — In a two-man show, Auburn’s Frankie Sullivan was out-scored by IPFW’s Frank Gaines but Sullivan scored when it mattered most including a put-back dunk with 1:24 to go which capped an 18-4 run.
Sullivan scored 26 points, one shy of his career high, and had four rebounds, Allen Payne had 12 points and Rob Chubb had 10 points and a career-high 15 rebounds as Auburn came from behind to defeat IPFW, 61-50, in the season-opener Friday night at Auburn Arena.
“I’d rather play great defense than outscore anybody,” Sullivan said. “I don’t like getting into scoring matches with anybody because it’s not an individual game it’s a team game. I really don’t like taking shots like that but it was at the point where we just had to.”
Auburn trailed 42-37 with 11:01 to go when Sullivan took over, scoring nine of the Tigers’ next 18 points and slammed in a missed layup by Allen Payne with 1:24 to go which brought the crowd of 6,391 to its feet.
“It felt great,” said Sullivan, who had knee surgery two years ago.
“I don’t think I did that since 12th grade. It was a long time ago. Me doing that was a great thing for me and it just got the crowd pumping. I think that was a great turning point in the game not only for me but for my teammates.”
Frank Gaines scored a career-high 32 points for IPFW and became the first opposing player to score 30-plus against the Tigers since Ole Miss’ Dundrecous Nelson scored 30 on March 2, 2011. Gaines, a senior,
shot 10-of-18 from the field including 3-for-8 from 3-point range and added nine free throws.
“I was on point on offense,” Gaines said.
Auburn predominantly played zone in the second half and held IPFW to just 23.1 percent shooting after the break and 28.8 percent for the game. It was the worst shooting performance for an Auburn opponent since Bethune-Cookman shot 23.7 percent on Jan. 2.
“The zone has been good for us,” Auburn coach Tony Barbee said. “The guys understand how much I despise playing zone but until we can guard that basketball, do a better job of communicating and anticipating instead of reacting on the man-to-man, we’re going to have to go to that zone and go back-and-forth.”
The IPFW offense was inept aside from Gaines as the rest of the Mastodons shot a dreadful 5-for-34 from the floor.
IPFW led by as much as 24-15 with 3:21 to go in
the first half as Auburn had a very poor shooting performance.
“Offensively, we struggled in the last four minutes with their zone,” IPFW coach Tony Jasick said. “Auburn’s zone was effective late and we didn’t attack it the way that we would like to, but that’s going to happen.”
Chubb, who became the first Auburn player with 15-plus rebounds since Korvotney Barber (17) on March 9, 2009, was just 2-for-9 in the first half and missed several layups.
“I was realizing my shot wasn’t falling so the only way I could help my team was getting every rebound I could so that’s what I was focusing on the whole time,” Chubb said.
Barbee deadpanned on Chubb’s shooting struggles.
“I thought Rob Chubb missed a lot of easy shots but I guess that’s Rub Chubb isn’t it?” Barbee cracked. “But unlike last year, when he missed those shots he’d come up with two rebounds and would be out of it, wouldn’t be a factor defensively. (He) came up with 15 rebounds – that’s huge in a game like this.”
Barbee stuck with a predominantly senior lineup in a close game, which he hopes to change as his younger players develop and earn his trust.