Jared Harper got Auburn going early, and then finished the drill with a thunderous dunk to push the Tigers past Xavier 88-79. Auburn improves to 4-0 with the win and will face off against the winner of the Duke/San Diego State matchup tomorrow night.
It was a sloppy first half that somehow resulted in an Auburn edge at the intermission. The Tigers led 33-28 after the first twenty minutes, despite Jared Harper’s four turnovers and some defensive lapses on second-chance shots for the Musketeers. Bryce Brown escaped a drought early on to hit three long balls and lead all scorers with 13 points at the break, while Xavier got 10 points from Ryan Welage in that span. Auburn’s rebounding and defense was fine, with the Tigers scoring 16 points off of turnovers, but foul trouble was a real issue. Harper, Austin Wiley, and Chuma Okeke each committed two fouls in the first half, and the Tigers were thankful to get to the locker room in the end. Xavier rattled off an 8-1 run in the final couple of minutes before the intermission to take all the momentum into the half.
Out of halftime, Xavier immediately cut the lead to just 33-31, but then Auburn ran off a 9-0 spurt to take the largest lead of the game at 42-31. Anfernee McLemore opened the second half with a block, a couple rebounds, and a three to get the Tigers that edge before another Welage three cut it to eight at the under-16 timeout. The foul discrepancy became a real problem in the second half, as Xavier got into the double-bonus near the midpoint of the half, and they made their first 13 foul shots after halftime. Still, the Tigers led 60-55 at the under-8 break of the second half.
Xavier eventually cut it to one point multiple times in the next series thanks to three-pointers by Welage and Paul Scruggs, but a clutch sequence by Jared Harper included a long three before he drew an offensive foul to give Auburn the ball with 3:17 to play and a 74-70 lead. Anfernee McLemore fouled out on Xavier’s next possession, though, and the foul shots cut it to a two-point game once again. However, Bryce Brown knocked down a giant three after a miss to extend the lead back to two possessions, and Scruggs’ three with 53 seconds to play put the margin at 77-75, then free throws tied it at 77 and Auburn missed the game-winner in regulation, sending us to overtime without McLemore and Austin Wiley.
Bryce Brown scored Auburn’s first point in the overtime period on a free throw, and then Jared Harper threw in the dunk hear ‘round the islands.
He followed up that dunk with a little teardrop and a free throw to give Auburn a 6-point lead before a steal on a last second Xavier shot turned into a Bryce Brown dunk to ice it.
Jared Harper started sloppily, but finished with 25 points, while Bryce Brown added 26 to lead all scorers as the Tigers advance to play the winner of Duke and San Diego State tomorrow at 7 pm CST. On the game, Auburn shot 45%, going 11-35 from deep, and scored 31 points off of turnovers to ease past Xavier.