Frankie Sullivan totaled a game-high 24 points, including 20 in the second half, to go along with five rebounds, two assists and two steals with 20 stitches in his shooting arm to lead Auburn to a 55-51 victory over the College of Charleston in the Charleston Classic second round in TD Arena on Friday.
Sullivan, who left the previous night's game with 15 minutes to play after crashing into the scorer's table, scored Auburn's first 14 points of the second half, including a pair of 3-pointers, to give the Tigers a 36-31 lead with 11:36 remaining. Jordan Price followed with four straight to give Auburn a 40-32 lead with 11 minutes to go.
"That's what Coach told me to do at halftime to pick it up for the team, and that is what I tried to do," said Sullivan. "He came into the locker room at halftime and challenged the seniors that if you are going to win in this country, the senior guards always win it for you. I took the challenge on and accepted it for the team.
"My arm was throbbing the whole game, but I am used to pain. I have broken a lot of bones in my body. It is about the will, and it is not about the pain. It blocks it out when the adrenaline starts going. So, my adrenaline started going and the pain went away."
A 7-0 Charleston run closed the Cougars to within 40-39 less than a minute later, but the Tigers stretched it out to a 50-44 lead after back-to-back great moves for buckets down low by Shareif Adamu with 3:39 remaining. Adamu then made two huge free throws with 36 seconds left for a 52-47 lead to score six straight for the Tigers.
"Frankie is the heart and soul of our team, and I am proud of the way he responded in the second half," said Auburn head coach Tony Barbee.
A Adjeh Baru tip-in for the Cougars made it 52-49 Auburn with 18 seconds left before Sullivan drained a pair of foul shots for a 54-49 lead a half second later. After another Baru layup, Noel Johnson split two foul shots for a 55-51 lead with 7.6 seconds left to ice it.
"We are going to be a work in progress on the offensive end of the floor," said Barbee. "We have to get our younger guys rolling. We have to get Rob Chubb and Shareif established in the post. Even though it doesn't show up in high production, those guys made some big buckets down the stretch when we had to keep them at bay.
"The key tonight was we had to be better on the defensive end of the floor. We held them to 38 percent shooting after Murray State shot 53 percent last night. We had 20 turnovers last night, 15 in the second half that led to 20 points. We did those things better tonight. We had some guys step up tonight. Defensively, we also forced 19 turnovers.
Auburn improved to 2-1 on the season while College of Charleston fell to 1-2.
Three-straight Noel Johnson 3-pointers gave Auburn a 13-10 lead with 9:54 left in the first. Johnson entered the game missing all 10 of his field goal attempts this season. The Tigers used a 16-6 run to take a 20-15 lead with 4:18 to play before the Cougars closed the half with an 8-2 run to regain the lead 23-22 at the half.
Auburn shot 35.8 percent from the field, but 50 percent in the second half as the Tigers held College of Charleston to 38.3 percent shooting. The Tigers were 6-fo-17 from 3-point range and 11-of-14 from the foul line while the Cougars were 5-of-15 behind the arc and 10-of-18 from the foul line.
Charleston outrebounded Auburn 42-26 but Auburn forced 19 turnovers. Noel Johnson had 12 points, with 11 of them coming in the first half on 3-of-4 shooting from 3-point range. Adamu added 11 points. Charleston was led by Anthony Stitt's 11 points.
The Tigers play Dayton, who defeated Boston College 87-71 on Friday after losing to No.1 6 Baylor 84-74 on Thursday, in the Charleston Classic third round at 1 pm CT on Sunday on ESPN3.