AUBURN - Less than one minute into the second half, Auburn coach Tony Barbee was seething on the bench. "Timeout!" he barked.
Josh Wallace's steal and layup gave Auburn the lead for good/Todd Van Emst photos
LSU had scored the first five points of the second half to extend its lead to 33-27. Barbee reminded his players what he'd told them in the locker room, that they would win with defense and toughness. Right then and there, the game changed and Auburn went on to break a five-year drought in Southeastern Conference openers with a 68-63 victory.
The Tigers caught up at 37-37 with 13:54 left when Asauhn Dixon Tatum dunked in the face of LSU's Shane Hamilton. They took the lead at 39-37 when point guard Josh Wallace turned a steal into a layup and never trailed again.
A Noel Johnson jumper finished off a 14-2 run that gave the Tigers a 49-39 lead with 9:29 left. They led 64-50 with 1:06 left. LSU's last-minute flurry made the outcome appear closer than it was.
"The thing we have been talking about with this team is continuing to fight, no matter what's happening," Barbee said. "There is going to be adversity in the game in some form or fashion. Early on in the season, we let that affect us."
Thursday night, Barbee said, his team didn't falter.
"This group is doing a great job with adversity," Barbee said. "We got off to a hot start. They get back in the game. In the second half, they come out and take a six-point lead early on. We didn't' stop fighting. I'm proud of the guys and the way they performed. They grinded out a win, a big win."
Allen Payne scored 15 points, including the first seven of the game, to lead Auburn. Freshman Shaquille Johnson had a career-high 11 points and nine rebounds. Frankie Sullivan struggled from the field but finished with 10 points. Center Rob Chubb scored 8 points and had 8 rebounds.
The student section at Auburn Arena was jammed. There could have been more, but athletic department officials enforced their policy of charging $5 to students who aren't in the first 1,500 to arrive. As a result, despite thousands of empty seats a large number of students were told they would have to pay and left. Some students said they were not even told they could buy tickets at the discounted price and instead told they'd have to pay full price.
Barbee went to the student section, blowing a kiss when the game was over.
"Don't tell me that," Barbee said when asked about students being turned away. "It's hard to change the culture."
Auburn held Shavon Coleman, LSU's leading scorer, to 4 points. Guard Charles Carmouche led the Bayou Bengals with 15 points, hitting four 3-pointers in 11 tries.
Auburn's defense, Barbee said, was there from the start. LSU had its lowest offensive output of he season.
"Defensively, we did the job tonight," Barbee said. "They are a very good offensive team. They are shooting almost 50 percent from the floor. We held them to 37 percent."
Auburn evened its record at 7-7 overall and will try to win its second straight SEC game Saturday at South Carolina. LSU fell to 9-3.
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