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February 13, 2013

Slipping away

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AUBURN | Arkansas can't win outside of the state of Arkansas during the past three seasons -- unless it's at Auburn Arena.

Arkansas' 83-75 win Wednesday night was its fifth overall road victory since 2010. Three of them occurred at Auburn.

In a game of runs, Auburn could never seize control. Arkansas did.

Auburn (9-15, 3-8) grabbed a two-point lead moments before halftime, but lost it quickly in the second half. Arkansas had three different players hit three-pointers in a span of 2:22 midway through the period to stretch its lead to 12 and would never look back.

In an unusually long post-game chat in the locker room, Barbee said he told the team, specifically his veterans, how let down he was with the second half effort that led to Auburn's eighth conference loss in nine games.

"We fought our tails off together in the first half," Barbee said. "In the second half, we didn't do it. It's disappointing."

After what coach Tony Barbee called Auburn's "two best games of the year", the Tigers followed them up with a second-half letdown against Arkansas.

"We didn't play great against Alabama, we just collectively fought our tails off," Barbee said. "Even though we didn't win at Kentucky, we collectively fought our tails off. So it's disappointing when we come in tonight and do it for a half and not a complete game. It's disappointing."

The word of the night? Disappointing.

"To give the fans what they want against Alabama and to fight against Kentucky, then to come out tonight and disappoint everyone, it's disappointing," junior guard Chris Denson said.

Senior Frankie Sullivan came off the bench for the first time since Jan. 17, 2012, and scored 11 points in 31 minutes. Still, Barbee said he didn't get the results he wanted from benching his leading scorer. At times, Sullivan looked comfortable and played efficient. In the second half, he began to regress.

"I'm searching with Frankie," Barbee said. "He's putting way too much pressure on himself. And it happens with all seniors. They start to see the end of the tunnel."

Barbee said the senior must suspend his disbelief about his college career drawing to a close.

"You can't play that way," Barbee said. "He's got to think about this team. When he does that, he'll get out of whatever fog he is in."

Sullivan and senior center Rob Chubb combined for 10 turnovers. As a team, Auburn committed 16 - none of which were committed against Arkansas's full-court press defense.

"Tells you all you need to know," Barbee said.

Denson illustrated further.

"It was just us making bone-head plays," Denson said. "It's not coach's fault. It's all on us. We've just got to look in the mirror."

With Sullivan out of the starting lineup, Chubb is the only player to start all 24 games this year for Auburn. But his 24th wasn't one to remember. Chubb recorded four points on 2-of-8 shooting along with eight rebounds, five turnovers and four fouls.

"I have no idea where he's at," Barbee said. "But he wasn't here tonight."

Barbee created a spark late in the second half when he pulled Chubb along with junior center Asauhn Dixon-Tatum. With several freshman playing key roles in a smaller lineup, Auburn cut the lead to three with five minutes left in the game.

"I was disappointed in our veteran players," Barbee said. "I'm looking for a group of guys that are going to fight for each other. I don't care if it's the seniors or the freshman."

Arkansas (15-9, 6-5) didn't make it easy for Auburn. Junior Marshawn Powell and sophomore B.J. Young almost replicated their 50-point output from Auburn's trip to Fayetteville in January by combining for 45 points in the win. Denson led Auburn with 18 points and five assists.



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