SAN DIEGO — The unofficial motto of the NCAA Tournament is “survive and advance.” Auburn basketball took that to the extreme Friday night.
No. 4 seed Auburn won its first NCAA Tournament game in 15 years by taking down upset-minded No. 13 seed College of Charleston, 62-58, in the first round.
Auburn shot 28 percent from the field and didn’t hit a single 3-pointer in the first half. The second half offense wasn’t much better, statistically. Still, the Tigers were able to take down the Cougars with defense — featuring a career-best game on that end of the floor from center Horace Spencer. And fortunately for the Tigers, the shots started falling down the stretch.
Here are the box scores and three quick takeaways from Auburn’s ugly but effective NCAA Tournament victory:
FINAL: Auburn 62, College of Charleston 58.
The Tigers win an absolutely ugly one, but the win is all that matters in this tournament. pic.twitter.com/gHbqji1Tih
— Justin Ferguson (@JFergusonAU) March 17, 2018
Defense wins… NCAA Tournament games?
Auburn came into this game obsessed with slaying the College of Charleston’s “three-headed monster” of Grant Riller, Joe Chealey and Jarrell Brantley. With Chealey limited by an apparent ankle injury he suffered in the first half, the Tigers held them to a combined XX points Friday evening in San Diego. Spencer protected the rim well, even volleyball-spiking an attempt in the first half.
More importantly for Auburn, it was able to turn the College of Charleston over repeatedly. The Cougars averaged only 9 turnovers per game heading into the NCAA Tournament. They had 10 with several minutes left on the clock in the first half and finished with XX. Auburn scored XX points off turnovers, helping out an anemic offense.
The kids are still alright
With Jared Harper picking up a pair of quick fouls in the first half, Auburn had to rely on freshman Davion Mitchell to lead the offense. Mitchell had struggled offensively in recent weeks, but it wasn’t a problem Friday. He helped the Tigers pull ahead of the Cougars and played a turnover-free first half. With Harper off his game, Mitchell was instrumental in the second half as well.
Fellow freshman Chuma Okeke assisted Spencer with good interior defense, coming up with several big stops of his own. Once again, Okeke finished the game as Auburn’s top rebounder. Without the two freshmen, Auburn wouldn’t have been able to pull off the victory.
Cold spell continues
Bryce Brown’s confidence looked zapped at the end of the first half, as he missed all 6 of his shots and both free throw attempts before the break. And while he hit several 3-point attempts in the second half, he never looked how he did early in the SEC season from the floor.
Auburn found enough offense without Brown, getting scoring spurts from Heron, Murray and even Spencer. But in order for Auburn to make it to Omaha for the Sweet 16, one would think the Tigers need to get Brown’s confidence back.
The post Instant analysis: Auburn basketball grinds out first NCAA Tournament win in 15 years appeared first on SEC Country.
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