AUBURN, Ala. – Tigers guard Earnest Ross said that when his team plays hard, it can compete with anybody, and on Monday night he was absolutely right.
Freshman Josh Langford scored a career-high 16 points as Auburn notched its fourth win in a row with a 65-60 victory over Florida State.
The Tigers (7-7), whose most significant win entering Monday came against Middle Tennessee State, beat a team that was fresh off a win over Baylor, a 3-seed in last year's NCAA Tournament.
"Since the beginning of the season, we've gotten a lot better," said guard Josh Wallace, who finished with nine points and seven assists. "And it's starting to show."
Florida State (11-4) got off to a frigid start in the first half, shooting 24.2 percent from the floor (8 of 33) and 6.7 percent from 3-point range (1 of 15).
Auburn took a 27-22 lead into halftime thanks to 11 points from Langford, who knocked down 3 of 4 from beyond the arc in the first half.
The Seminoles put together a 9-2 run out of the break punctuated by a Chris Singleton steal and slam to retake the lead, 31-29, with 17:32 to go.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Allen Payne and Ross, along with a 3-point play by Kenny Gabriel, capped an 11-0 run in 2:28 to give the Tigers their largest lead of the night, 45-36, with 11:15 remaining.
Florida State came right back, ripping off a 10-1 run that ended on a Michael Snaer 3-pointer to tie the game at 46.
Langford hit his fourth 3-pointer of the night to put Auburn up 49-46 with 4:42 to go, and the Tigers put away the Seminoles down the stretch.
"These guys are learning so much, learning how to play hard, together and unselfish," Tigers coach Tony Barbee said. "The biggest part of all that is learning how to win. It doesn't just happen."
Ross scored 10 points and pulled down 11 rebounds, and Rob Chubb added 10 points.
Singleton had a game-high 20 points to go along with 10 rebounds, and Derwin Kitchen scored 12 for the Seminoles, who had only lost to No. 2 Ohio State, Florida and Butler entering Monday.
Florida State, which had a marked size advantage over the Tigers, made 5 of 26 3-point attempts on the night.
"I didn't think they took advantage (of their size)," Barbee said. "If they would've thrown it to the block time after time tonight, we would have had issues.
"But I thought we did a good job mixing up our defense. As good as we were defensively, it was a case of them not making shots as well."
Florida State travels to Virginia Tech on Saturday before heading back home to take on top-ranked Duke on Jan. 12.
Auburn heads into its Saturday SEC opener against LSU with four straight wins and a .500 record in tow.
"It's a totally different team than when you look back to the first game of the year," Barbee said. "The guys are understanding that if you play hard you don't always win, but good things are going to happen."