Shoeless Chubb leads Auburn to 1st SEC win

Walk-on Wallace added 17, and helped Auburn to it's first SEC win of the season.

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Rob Chubb left his shoes in Auburn, just a day before he and the Tigers left behind any notion of a winless SEC season.

Chubb led Auburn with a career-high 18 points and the Tigers put up their second-highest point total for the season in a 79-64 win over South Carolina in front of 10,281 fans at Colonial Life Arena on Saturday, their first conference win in seven tries.

The Tigers’ forward said the team puts all their shoes in a bag before they leave on road trips, and some players were putting in spare pairs to make sure they didn’t go shoeless.  Chubb’s didn’t make the cut.

He went through shootaround in a pair of 14.5-sized shoes before the South Carolina staff came through with a pair of his customary 16s.

Under Armour, of course.

“My toes were curled up, I was tripping over myself,” Chubb said. “It was going to be an interesting game if these shoes didn’t come through.”

The Tigers (8-13, 1-6 SEC) beat the Gamecocks (12-7, 3-3) doing all the things they struggled with during their winless conference start.

Auburn outrebounded South Carolina – which entered the game tied for the league lead in boards – 47-35, with 13 coming from Kenny Gabriel.

“It was just being physical,” Gabriel said. “Coach has been preaching from Day 1 about how if we’re going to win games, we need to rebound. Today we proved we can rebound, and if we do that on a consistent basis, we’ll get more wins.”

The Tigers experienced some offensive attrition – as they had in their six games previous – but weathered the storm with defense.

After trailing by as many as 11 early in the second half, South Carolina cut the Tigers’ lead to 57-52 on a Brian Richardson drive with 8:21 to go.

But Josh Wallace – who also netted a career high with 17 – answered with a runner in the lane, the start of a 10-0 run over the next 4:30 that sealed the Tigers’ first conference win.

“I knew the drought was coming. The guys knew it was coming,” Auburn coach Tony Barbee said. “But I thought mentally the guys didn’t let that affect what we did on the defensive end of the floor.  “We didn’t hang our heads and pout like it was over.”

Auburn held South Carolina to 34.3-percent shooting and a 7-for-33 (21.2 percent) mark from beyond the arc.

Ramon Galloway led the Gamecocks with 20 points, and 6-foot-9 forward Sam Muldrow had 14 points and nine rebounds.

But the undersized Tigers didn’t let Muldrow and the Gamecocks’ frontcourt control the paint.

Led by Chubb, Auburn outscored South Carolina, 42-20, in the lane.

“Coach Barbee gave me the green light. He said, ‘We’re throwing the ball into you. It’s up to you what you want to do with it,’” said Chubb, who hadn’t scored in double digits since Jan. 11 at Kentucky.

“I was like, ‘Every time I get it, it’s going in. I’m scoring or they’re fouling me.’ That’s what my mentality for the day was.”

Auburn attempted only five 3-pointers on the night – well below its season average of 16.5 – and knocked down 26-of-34 free throws.

The Tigers matched their biggest lead of the SEC season – 7 points – on a Chubb follow with 2:18 left in the first half and topped it with an Allen Payne dunk off a missed layup 39 seconds into the second.

And, unlike against Arkansas on Tuesday, Auburn came out of the halftime locker room strong, outscoring South Carolina, 14-8, in the first 4:18.

“It’s a big weight off our shoulders,” Chubb said. “It’s well overdue. We’ve just been fighting and scrapping in practice and knowing it’s going to pay off sooner or later.

“Today was our day.”

Now, about those shoes.

“They’re making me give them back,” Chubb said with a shrug. “Beat them in their own shoes. I’ll take that.”

dmorrison@oanow.com | 737-2568

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