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Tigers look for late-season push

AUBURN – For Auburn’s basketball team, a season of misery is nearing its end. But third-year coach Tony Barbee insists that the Tigers still have worthwhile goals with three regular-season games left before the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

Frankie Sullivan continues to lead Auburn in scoring/Todd Van Emst photo

The Tigers (9-19 overall and 3-12 in the Southeastern Conference) play Vanderbilt (12-15 and 6-9) at 8 on Saturday night at the Auburn Arena. Tennessee comes to town on Wednesday, and the Tigers close the regular season at last-place Mississippi State next Saturday.

“We are focused on Vanderbilt, but overall we are focused on trying to play our best basketball heading into conference tournament play,” Barbee said. “We have an opportunity with two in a row at home before finishing up at Mississippi State. We are locked in on Vanderbilt, but we are also locked in on what there is to play for."

Saturday night’s game will be televised by ESPN2.

It was seven weeks ago that Auburn won at South Carolina to go to 2-0 in the Southeastern Conference. Not much has gone right since. The Tigers have lost of 12 of 13 games and six straight. They beat Alabama 49-37 on Feb. 6, but the Tide avenged that loss Tuesday night with a 61-43 victory in Tuscaloosa.

Vanderbilt has had its share of troubles, too, but comes to Auburn with momentum after rallying from 17 points behind to beat Georgia for its third win in four games. The Commodores 73-61 in Nashville on Jan. 23.

“They are a persistent team, and they have been that way,” Barbee said. “Even though they are a middle of the pack team in our league right now, they are a team that has been persistent in every game.”

Though senior guard Frankie Sullivan’s shooting woes persist, he continues to lead Auburn with 14.4 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. Junior guard Chris Denson averages 10.8 points per game. Senior center Rob Chubb averages 8.9 points and 6.7 rebounds.

Sophomore guard Kedren Johnson leads Vanderbilt with 13.6 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. Junior forward Rod Odom averages 10.3 points and 4.1 rebounds per game.

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