DeWayne Reed scored all 17 of his points in the final 20:01 and Frankie Sullivan added 17 points and a career-high nine rebounds, but it wasn't enough as Auburn lost a 76-72 heartbreaker to Florida State in the Donald L. Tucker Center Thursday.
After trailing by as many as 14 points in the second half, Auburn (5-5) went on a 24-10 run to tie it at 59-59 on a Sullivan 3-pointer with 6:46 left. That was the first time the Tigers were tied since holding a 12-10 lead just over six minutes into the game.
The Tigers tied at 61 and then at 63 at 4:41, but Florida State scored four straight to go up 67-63 before Auburn's Ty Armstrong made a free throw with 2:11 remaining.
Lucas Hargrove sank a 3-pointer to bring the Tigers to within 69-67 with 1:01 remaining. Solomon Alabi, who scored a game-high 22 points for the Seminoles, made a conventional 3-point play with 36 seconds to go to give Florida State (9-2) a 72-67 edge.
"That was a tough, hard fought game with two teams that had one inside team and one that shoots a lot of threes," said Auburn head coach Jeff Lebo. "We had a hard time there with foul problems obviously. We put a team on the line and when they beat you as much as they did on the foul line, that obviously hurts you in the game. That was probably the biggest difference in the game."
Tay Waller hit two treys to open the game to give Auburn a 6-0 lead, but DeWayne picked up two quick fouls in the first three minutes and went to the bench for the next 10:29 of the first half. The Seminoles quickly came back to tie it at 8-8 in less than two minutes. Florida State got into the one-and-one free throw situation in only the first 5:42 of the game.
The Seminoles used a 9-0 run to turn a 19-18 deficit into its largest lead of the first half at 27-19 with six minutes left as the Tigers were held scoreless for nearly four minutes. Sullivan scored five straight points to draw the Tigers back to within 27-24 at the 9:10 mark.
Florida State didn't score a basket for nearly the final 7:29 of the first half until Deividas Dulkys sank his third 3-pointer of the period with one second to go as the Seminoles went up 33-25. The Seminoles did make five free throws during the span.
Auburn only scored two baskets in the final 9:09, the last one on Sullivan's trey with 4:41 remaining, and added a Reed foul shot with 7.4 seconds left.
The Tigers forced 12 Seminole first half turnovers to stay close despite shooting only 27.8 percent (10-of-36) from the field and 21.1 percent (4-of-19) from 3-point range and being outrebounded 22-17. Florida State finished the first 20 minutes shooting 47.4 percent (9-of-19) from the field and 55.6 percent (5-of-9) from 3-point range.
Florida State outshot Auburn from the foul line in the first half, 10-of-13 to 1-of-3.
The Tigers were saddled with serious first half foul trouble as three players, Reed, Hargrove and Johnnie Lett each had three fouls while Sullivan had two, but picked up his fourth only 3:12 into the second half before going to the bench.
"We have great depth on the bench and they came in and helped us out a lot the minutes they played when Reed and Johnnie, (Brendon) Knox and Lucas got in foul trouble," said Sullivan. "They helped us out big-time. We are a great team and a work in progress, and we are going to get a lot better come SEC time."
After being down by as much as 49-35, Auburn scored nine straight points to close to within 49-44 with 11:29 remaining and Reed's third 3-pointer of the second half closed the Tigers to within 53-49 just over a minute later. A Reed conventional 3-point play closed Auburn to within 59-56 at 8:42. Sullivan then tied it for the first time since 8-8 at 59-59.
"We played hard but sometimes hard playing doesn't get you the W and that is what happened tonight," said Sullivan. "We didn't execute. We got a lot more shots than they did. We outhustled them, but they put the ball in the hole and we didn't."
Auburn shot 44.4 percent from the field in the second half to bring its percentage up to 36.1 percent for the game. The Tigers shot 45.0 percent (9-of-20) from behind the arc in the second half to shoot 33.3 percent (13-of-39) from 3-point range for the game. Auburn was only 7-of-13 from the foul line compared to Florida State's 24-of-34. Sullivan, Knox and Lett all fouled out for the Tigers.
Auburn returns home to play Sam Houston State in Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum on Sunday at 1 pm Central. Tickets are $5 each. Saturday Six Pack ticket packages are on-sale now and include a reserved ticket to six Saturday games for only $59.
Purchasing the Six Pack saves $36 off the regular price and guarantees a seat for the Kentucky, Georgia Southern, South Carolina, Arkansas, LSU and Alabama games. To purchase, visit AuburnTigers.com or call 800-AUB-1957.