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February 13, 2013

Chris Denson could play bigger role, taking on Frankie Sullivan’s scoring responsibilities

Photo by Todd Van Emst

AUBURN, Ala. – His television survived.

But all other objects in Chris Denson’s bedroom feared for safety the night of Jan. 16.

Denson was home nursing a foot injury, unable to travel with Auburn on its trek to Arkansas.

“I know I wasn’t available. I watched the game at the house actually,” Denson recalled.

The Tigers ended up losing 88-80 … in double overtime. Much to the expense of Denson’s emotions.

“It was real tough. I didn’t even watch the second overtime, because I just couldn’t handle it,” the Shaw product said. “I was throwing things. My next-door neighbors were knocking on the door telling me to calm down. It was pretty frustrating.”

Denson’s healthy now, and has an opportunity in front of him. Frankie Sullivan scored 26 points in that defeat, but ever since has scuffled with his scoring, leading coach Tony Barbee to suggest Sullivan may see some of his shooting guard minutes siphoned off in Denson’s direction in tonight’s tilt with Arkansas (9 p.m. ET, CSS.)

“He’s finally got the confidence back in his foot where he’s able to slash and get to the rim and attack,” Barbee said. “But I think the best part of the game is how he’s affected the game defensively, where he’s really been active guarding the ball. He’s really been alert and aware off the ball.

“I think Chris has earned the opportunity in that spot right now.”

With his teammate seated next to him, Sullivan wasn’t shy to praise Denson for picking up the slack offensively.

“He’s been carrying the load for us and I’ve got to really appreciate a guy that comes back off an injury and start playing like he’s playing, the confidence he’s playing with,” Sullivan said. “I applaud him for that. Chris, he’s a scorer. I’ve been saying that from day one.”

Denson could utilize Sullivan’s blueprint to make life difficult on the Razorbacks’ defense. If Barbee chooses to put Sullivan on the bench to begin the game, it would break his streak of 36 consecutive starts.

“I could see they had trouble defending and I saw Frank torch them up by driving and penetrating,” Denson said. “Brian (Greene) was penetrating and getting Noel (Johnson) open shots. I feel like that I can penetrate, get to the basket, get my teammates opportunities to score.”

Arkansas is 14-9 this year, but still seeks its first road victory in six tries. The Hogs lost at Texas A&M by 18, at the SEC’s last-place squad South Carolina by 21 and at Vanderbilt by 18 on Saturday.

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