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Tigers streak to win over FSU

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - The win Tuesday wasn't as clean as Memphis State coach Larry Finch would have wanted, and he says that's due to an excessive number of turnovers. "That tends to make the game look ugly," Finch said about the turnovers after the Tigers' 81-69 Metro Conference victory over Florida State. "You've got to be able to read and attack.

"I don't think we played that bad, but not as good as we are capable," Finch said. "Both teams got after each other. They (Florida State) played a lot of different defenses."

But Memphis State's defense was a major factor in the contest as Florida State - suffering its fifth straight loss - committed 25 turnovers, including 17 in the first half.

The turnovers caused Florida State problems even when the Seminoles cut Memphis State's lead to one point with about 12 minutes remaining, said Florida State coach Pat Kennedy.

"We made a great comeback in the second half with fewer turnovers (than in the first half), however, those turnovers were at costly times," Kennedy said. "Our second half shots did not seem to fall either. Overall, I felt that excessive turnovers hurt us."

The Seminoles continued to suffer without their starting guard Tharon Mayes, who was suspended because of an incident on campus.

"Our kids are playing as hard as they can work," Kennedy said. "It's been an unlucky year, but we're trying to move forward and develop the team. Without Tharon Mayes, we thought we could win some games."

Memphis State guard Elliot Perry led the Tiger attack with 22 points, including 11 in the final four minutes as Memphis State maintained 8- and 10-point leads.

Memphis State (15-8, 6-4) led only 51-50 with 12 minutes remaining when Michael Polite tipped in a missed Florida State shot.

But the Tigers, behind the play of forwards Ernest Smith and Kelvin Allen, went on a 12-2 streak, including eight unanswered points, for a 65-54 advantage with 5:27 left in the game.

After that, Florida State (13-13, 4-7) got no closer than seven.

Memphis State held a 42-31 lead at the half, the first time in eight games the Tigers have had a double digit lead at intermission.

Florida State led by as many as five early in the first half, but failed to keep pace. The Seminoles could not seem to protect the ball, with 17 turnovers in the half and 25 in the game.

Smith added 13 points for Memphis State, and Allen had 10.

Polite led all scorers with 25 for Florida State. Thomas added 20 and Chuck Graham had 12 for the Seminoles.

SPJC 78, Brevard CC 63

CLEARWATER - St. Petersburg Junior College maintained at least a tie at the top of the Suncoast Conference standings with a 78-63 win over Brevard Community College at SPJC's Clearwater campus.

The Trojans (24-2, 10-2) opened play tied for the conference lead with Manatee Community College which played Hillsborough Community College Tuesday. SPJC has two conference games remaining while Manatee has one remaining with third-place Polk.

SPJC forward Lincoln Roach led all scorers with 20 points, getting 16 in a big second half that helped the Trojans break a 29-29 tie at halftime. The Trojans fell into a familiar pattern of playing cautiously early, then exploding in the second half.

"I think what's happening is that the kids are playing not to lose," said SPJC coach Jack Coit. "And they're a little tentative.

But we need to play to win, and that's a big difference."

Brevard opened the second half scoring five straight points before the Trojans got on the board, but then it was all SPJC which went on a 17-4 run keyed by a three-point jumper by Roach and two Brevard turnovers.

SPJC never trailed after that.

"We started getting in the passing lanes and started getting some points," Coit said. "The first half we played a passive defense, but then took some chances in the second half that led to some easy baskets."

SPJC guard Sean Minton, averaging 10 assists per game, finished with 12, most of those going to Roach and Gerard Joseph for easy layups.

"You just can't ask for a better point guard," said Joseph, who like Roach, is a native of Trinidad. "Sean makes everyone play better.

And he would rather get the assist than score."

So why do the Trojans - ranked No. 1 in this week's JUCO state poll - need a jump start to get going lately?

"We were lackadaisical," said forward David Fletcher, a Countryside graduate. "We underestimated them."

"We have to pick up our intensity in the second half," Joseph said. "We can't be fooling around this late in the year."

- Correspondent Mike Payne contributed to this report.

TONIGHT'S GAME Florida at Auburn Who: Florida Gators (6-14 overall, 2-10 in Southeastern Conference) at Auburn Tigers (9-14, 5-7).

When: 8 p.m., Joel H. Eaves-Memorial Coliseum, Auburn, Ala. Radio: WSUN-620-St. Petersburg, WPLA-910-Plant City, WDCF-1350-Dade City, WWJB-1450-Brooksville, WXCV-95.3-FM-Homosassa Springs.

Coaches: Florida - Dan DeVoe. Auburn - Tommy Joe Eagles.

Key players: Florida - Dwayne Davis, F, 6-6 Jr. (12.1 ppg., 8.0 rpg.); Renaldo Garcia, G, 6-2 Jr. (11.2 ppg, 2.3 rpg); Stacey Poole, F, 6-6 Fr. (8 ppg). Auburn - Ronnie Battle, G, 6-1 Fr. (17.7 ppg, 3.1 rpg); Derrick Dennison, F, 6-3 Sr. (14.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg); Chris Brandt, F, 6-6 So. (12.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg).

Last game: Florida lost at home Monday night to Kentucky 78-74.

Auburn won at Mississippi State 77-74 on Saturday.

Notes: In the teams' first meeting on Jan. 13, host Florida was without starting forward Livingston Chatman but got 26 points from center Dwayne Schintzius and romped 84-62. That was the last time the Gators won (they have lost nine straight) and they since have lost Schintzius and starting guard B.J. Carter. Auburn, meanwhile, has gone 5-4 since that loss, winning three of the past four games.