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Sullivan, Barbee vow to fight on

AUBURN – For Frankie Sullivan, the journey is almost over. An Auburn basketball career that started when he arrived from Uniontown, Ala., in the summer of 2008 will soon be over. And it’s not likely to be the end of which he dreamed.

Frankie Sullivan is near the end of his Auburn career

“It’s very tough,” Sullivan said. “We’ve tried to change the culture and haven’t been able to do it while I was here. Looking at this past season and knowing we could have done better, there are a lot of things you sit back and think about. Hopefully we can get on a roll and help the team be positive for next year.”

The Tigers are mired in a deepening slump. They’ve lost five straight to fall to 9-18 overall and 3-11 in the Southeastern Conference. Their only victory in the past 12 games was 49-37 over Alabama at Auburn Arena on Feb. 6. Tuesday night at 6, the Tigers play the Tide again, this time at Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa.

Sullivan says he has no doubt Alabama will be out for revenge. In Auburn, the Tide led 23-13 at halftime, only go cold when Auburn got hot in the second half. At 18-9 and 10-4, Alabama still has hope of earning an NCAA Tournament bid.

“To spoil anything for those guys is good,” Sullivan said. “You don’t want to mess up anybody’s career, but when it comes to those guys, anything that messes up that end of town, we try to spoil it.”

Third-year Auburn coach Tony Barbee continues to look for the secret to breaking out of the slump that has consumed most of this season.

“We work on it every single day,” Barbee said. “Obviously, the adversity of the season we are having is affecting it in some ways. But as a player and a member of a program or a family, you have to take more pride in your craft. You have to play with more joy and more passion or why else do you do this?”

In last Saturday’s 88-55 loss at Ole Miss, second-leading scorer Chris Denson played just three minutes.

“I didn’t think he was defending very well,” Barbee said. “He wasn’t giving it all defensively. If you don’t play on that end of the floor, you don’t play.”

Meanwhile, freshman Shaq Johnson had the best game of his career with 18 points, seven rebounds and five dunks.

“All the guys that are returning, we are talking to them about the culture of what this is about,” Barbee said. “Whether you win or lose, it’s about how hard you compete, how hard you fight and how you have to do that together. I want to see the seniors continue to fight. I keep talking to them about how do they want to go out? How do they want to be remembered here?”

The Tigers play Vanderbilt at home on Saturday, followed by a home game against Tennessee on March 6. They close the regular season at Mississippi State on March 9.

For videos of interviews with Barbee and Sullivan, follow the links below.

VIDEO: TONY BARBEE

VIDEO: FRANKIE SULLIVAN

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