Auburn's Chris Denson on scoring tear
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) The key number for Auburn's Chris Denson lately has been 25.
The quick, acrobatic guard is the Tigers' first player in 25 years to score 25-plus points in four consecutive games. Denson is averaging 27.5 points and double-digit free throws during that stretch going into Wednesday night's rematch with No. 2 Florida.
''I've been letting the game come to me,'' Denson said Tuesday. ''I feel like every time I try to force the issue, my scoring isn't there and I have an off game. Coach is always saying, `Don't force the issue. Just let the game come to you.'
''That's what I've been doing and it's come with good results.''
The 6-foot-2, 181-pound Denson has been the biggest bright spot for the struggling Tigers (12-11, 4-8 Southeastern Conference), especially lately. He's leading the league in scoring at 20.9 points per game and is the first Auburn player to score 25-plus points four games in a row since Keenan Carpenter did it in five straight in 1988-89.
South Carolina, LSU, Kentucky and Mississippi State have been unable to slow down Denson, even though the Tigers are 2-2 during that stretch. He has taken 41 free throws in those four games, making 31.
Denson is already only the second Auburn player to score as many as 271 points in SEC games over the past 20 years, with six games to go.
''Chris has matured off the floor, and he's matured on the court,'' Tigers coach Tony Barbee said. ''It's allowed him to do things that he wouldn't be capable of doing early in his career because he was so immature. I'm as proud of what he's done off the floor as what he's done on the floor.''
The differences on the court include consistent effort and staying focused on defense, things that keep him from getting sent to the bench after lapses.
Denson does most of his damage on drives to the basket, attempting few 3-pointers. He's more adept at slipping past defenders, making seemingly awkward shots and heading to the free-throw line with frequency.
Given his balance and deftness on those improbable shots, it seemed fitting that he sported a Spiderman jersey underneath his practice jersey.
''They call me slippery so I just find the lanes,'' Denson said. ''I'm good at making the crazy up-and-unders. I practice them every day. That's just me. That's just my game.''
Denson knows that keeping his streak going won't be easy against the Gators, but he was solid in the first meeting. Denson had 21 points on 8-of-18 shooting in the Tigers' 68-61 loss.
''I remember the first time I played them, it was very hard for me to score because they lock you in defensively,'' Denson said. ''That's how they win all their games. This is a big challenge for me.''