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Denson returns in high style

AUBURN - For junior Auburn guard Chris Denson, the load sometimes seemed impossibly heavy.

Chris Denson soars for a dunk in Tuesday's win over Grambling/Todd Van Emst photos

As classes started last August, Denson was faced with a daunting task. Already academically ineligible, he had to pass 19 hours to eligible at semester's end.

"That's what engineers and stuff take," Denson said. "Nineteen hours is a lot. I stuck to it. Having that and family problems and basketball practice can be kind of hard, but I stuck it out."

And Tuesday night at Auburn Arena, Denson was back on the court doing what he does best. Slashing to the basket he scored as Auburn broke away from a sluggish first half to crush Grambling 92-42 and break a four-game losing streak.

Auburn improved to 3-5 on the season and plays Furman at Auburn Arena next Saturday. Grambling feel to 0-7.

"I'm happy for Chris that he has been able to refocus priorities in his life and (is) putting academics on top," Auburn coach Tony Barbee said. "... Like I told Chris, this isn't a first-semester deal with me. This is a rest of his career deal. I want to see him perform at the level he performed academically year around, not just when he's behind the 8-ball.

"Obviously, from a basketball perspective, we all see what Chris brings to the team. Where we've been struggling to score the ball, he's a guy that can go get buckets. He can score in a variety of ways."

After a 10-day break for finals, the Tigers were sluggish in their return to the court. They led 27-15 at halftime, shooting 34.6 percent. The second half was a different story. Freshman guard Jordan Price was 4-for-4 on 3-pointers. The Tigers were a running, dunking machine. They hit 25-of-37 shots from the field and scored 65 points.

Price, who scored all his points in the second half, and Noel Johnson, who was 4-of-6 on 3-pointers, scored 14 points apiece Rob Chubb and Frankie Sullivan scored 10 points apiece.

"I just told them I'm going to chalk this first half up to finals, multiple practices, 10 days since our last game, rust," Barbee said. "I said let's knock the rust off. We had good looks in the first half. The shots we made in the second half, we had those same looks in the first half and they didn't go in. I was glad to see the ball go in the hole and guys shoot the ball with some confidence."

For the game, Auburn hit 34-of-63 from the field for 54 percent and 11-of-24 from 3-point range. They scored a startling 36 points off turnovers.

The margin of victory was Auburn's largest since a 100-45 victory over Stony Brook on Jan. 2, 2000.

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