Auburn's Frankie Sullivan stuck in scoring slump
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) Auburn coach Tony Barbee had seen enough after a sequence when Frankie Sullivan committed a flagrant foul and missed a layup midway through the second half against Kentucky.
Sullivan headed to the bench and didn't return. Barbee is hoping the message got through to the team's leading scorer and most experienced player.
``He hasn't been playing well, so I've got to do something to get his attention,'' Barbee said about the slumping Sullivan. ``He didn't play well in the Kentucky game, made some bad decisions offensively and made some bad decisions defensively, so it's time to look at somebody else at that position.''
It remains to be seen whether that decision carries over into Wednesday night's game between the Tigers (9-14, 3-7) and Arkansas (14-9, 5-5) for Sullivan, who has started every game this season.
Sullivan had 26 points in a double-overtime loss to the Razorbacks a few weeks ago, but hasn't been the same since. The shooting guard is averaging 11.1 points over the last seven games, dropping his scoring average 17.8 points a game to 15.7.
Of more concern for Auburn, he has made just 23 percent (9 of 39) 3-pointers and hit 30.5 percent from the floor (25 of 82) since the first meeting.
``It's just not really frustrating to me,'' Sullivan said. ``I think I'm playing great defense and Chris (Denson) has been doing it for the offensive end. I just got to pick it up on the offensive end just a little bit more. I'm not so worried about the scoring, I just like to win. I say that over and over again.''
The Tigers aren't winning either. They've lost seven of their eight games since the Arkansas defeat after starting off the SEC season with back-to-back wins.
Sullivan was 1-for-13 shooting in the lone win last week against Alabama.
The low point might have come against Kentucky when Barbee yanked him from the game. Sullivan was called for a flagrant foul trying to prevent a breakaway layup by Kentucky's Kyle Wiltjer after committing a turnover and then missed the layup a couple of minutes later.
``I went back and I looked like I was going for the ball,'' Sullivan said. ``I wasn't trying to hurt anybody. Coach was just disappointed in my play and my performance and not so much of the foul.''
The often blunt Barbee doesn't go easy on his top player. He said Denson, who has averaged 12.8 points over the last five games after returning from a foot injury, could take some of Sullivan's playing time.
``He's still part of the team and part of the lineup and all those things, but he hasn't been playing well enough to warrant the minutes or opportunities that he's been getting,'' Barbee said. ``So now it's time to give somebody else a look. Chris Denson's been playing the last two games so I'm going to give him a look at that position for extended minutes and see if he could hold onto it.''
It's surprising that it's come to this point for Sullivan, whose nine 20-point games this season is more than every other player in the league except for Mississippi's Marshall Henderson (11).
Barbee said the problems range from teams focusing on him defensively to taking poor shots and ``trying to take too much on his shoulders instead of using his threat as a scorer to make the game easier for his teammates.''
He said Sullivan's shooting problems have affected the rest of his game.
``You would expect that from a freshman to let an offensive slump affect other parts of your game, because they're still learning the game and trying to understand it,'' Barbee said. ``But for a guy like Frankie, who's in his fifth year, he's beyond learning lessons. He knows if his offense isn't going, he knows he can still affect the outcome of the game by other parts of the game - defending, rebounding and doing all the little things. And he hasn't been doing those things either.''
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson is hoping Sullivan doesn't snap out of it just yet.
``It's about not making shots. He made shots the time we played them,'' Anderson said. ``Hopefully we can keep it where he's not making them. That's been the biggest difference that he is not making those shots. But he is a scorer. And one thing about scorers they find a way to score.''
AP Sports Writer Kurt Voigt in Fayetteville, Ark., contributed to this report.