AUBURN - Frankie Sullivan sat down, looked up at the ceiling and shook his head. The frustration was in his eyes and could be heard in his voice.
Auburn's Frankie Sullivan scored 28 points against DePaul/Todd Van Emst photo
Auburn's basketball team had lost again. At home again. The Tigers couldn't close the deal Friday night and fell 80-76 to DePaul in the SEC/Big East Challenge at Auburn career. It was Auburn's fourth consecutive loss.
Sullivan had a spectacular night Friday, scoring 28 points and handing out five assists and getting four rebounds, but he remembered a layup he missed down the stretch.
"I don't care if I score five points," Sullivan said. "I don't care if I score one point. I want to win."
But along with the frustration, there was hope, even for a team that dropped to 2-5 on the season. Senior center Rob Chubb, who had his second double-double of the season with 17 points and 13 rebounds, said better days are ahead.
"We have a lot of young guys," Chubb said. "They are starting to realize it's a struggle. It doesn't come easy. It's not handed to you. It's something you have to take. They are starting to get it. We are getting close. We are starting to come together as a team. Once the defense is sound, we are going to be a heck of a team."
Third-year coach Tony Barbee agreed. He said he saw signs of a team that is growing.
"As frustrated as we all are as a group - coaches, players, as a team, as a program, as a family - we are getting closer," Barbee said. "We have to put it all together at one time on the floor. The other night, we had our younger guys play well and our veteran guys not so well. Tonight I thought our veteran guys did what we needed them to do and carry us in big moments. Then our younger guys didn't quite have the games they had the other night."
Auburn played better Friday than in last Sunday's loss to Rhode Island, Barbee said, because of better work at practice.
"Like I told our guys, this was probably our best week of practice," Barbee said. "We had more energy, more effort. We had more guys more enthusiastic. I tell them all that is a skill. Sometimes it is hard for young guys to understand that, but it turned into a better performance because of that. Obviously, there are things we have to work on."
The Tigers led 46-42 at halftime, fell behind by as many as six points in the second half and tied the game at 72 on Noel Johnson's 3-pointer with 3:35 left.
DePaul led 78-76 when Chubb lost the ball at the top of the key with 14 seconds left. Two free throws sealed the deal for the Blue Demons, who improved to 4-3.
With finals next week, the Tigers don't play again until Grambling visits Dec. 11.