— COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — When Chris Denson and KT Harrell each picked up their fourth foul midway through the second half, Auburn coach Tony Barbee knew he had to have at least one of his high-scoring players out on the floor.
The calculated risk worked as they pulled the Tigers (11-9, 3-6 SEC) back from what could have been a disastrous collapse in a 79-74 win Wednesday night over South Carolina (8-14, 1-8).
"We've got to have at least one of those guys on the floor offensively to make plays. That's their job," Barbee said.
Auburn led by three at halftime, then made eight of its first nine shots of the second half. Allen Payne's 3-pointer with 13:20 left put the Tigers ahead 60-44.
But the Gamecocks went on an 18-2 run in five minutes to tie it at 62. Things got bleaker when Denson picked up his fourth foul with 8:05 left. He went to the bench, but didn't stay long as Harrell picked up his fourth foul less than a minute later. Denson was getting up out of his seat before the coaches pointed at him to go back in.
"We both had to stay in the game and make big plays down the stretch," Denson said.
And they did. Denson had a 3-point play and two more free throws and Harrell hit back-to-back jumpers to put the Tigers up 73-67 with 2:55 to go.
Denson, the SEC's second leading scorer, and Harrell, who is fourth in the league in points, would score 15 of Auburn's final 19 points, while avoiding a fifth foul. They would each finish the game with 25 points as the Tigers won three SEC games in a row in the same season for the first time since 2009 and matched their league wins from all of last year at the halfway mark of the season.