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Tip-Off Countdown: #52 (8) Auburn 88 Xavier 79 OT

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Jared Harper: Master of Dunks

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Auburn Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

November 19, 2018 - Lahaina, Hawaii

You (probably) don’t remember, but last year on the Tip-Off Countdown, we talked about this game twice. That’s because the Auburn backcourt made their mark in this game against the Musketeers. Bryce Brown and Jared Harper combined for 51 of Auburn’s 88 points in this game.

But how did we get there?

The 2018 Maui Invitational was made up of Auburn, Duke, Gonzaga, Xavier, San Diego State, Arizona, Iowa State and Illinois. An Auburn win, and the Tigers would likely get a matchup with top ranked Duke in the semifinals (a dream matchup for all fans and somewhat of a nightmare scenario for this writer). This tournament was a chance for Auburn to play in one of the most prestigious early season tournaments out there. Their first opponent was Xavier.

Bryce Brown got the Tigers off to a great start with a 3 on the game’s opening possession. Jared Harper would hit one about 2 12 minutes later. But early in this game (and keep in mind, this was a 9:30AM Hawaiian time tip), both teams struggled to score as this game was tied at 12 after 10 minutes.

After the Under 8 timeout, Auburn finally got into a rhythm. Down 17-14, the Tigers got Austin Wiley involved for an easy dunk, then Chuma Okeke hit a 3 to put Auburn back in front. Bryce Brown would score Auburn’s next 8 points, including 2 3-pointers and Malik Dunbar capped a 16-3 run with a 3 of his own as Auburn led 30-20 with 2:48 left in the half.

Xavier ended the half on a 6-0 and so Auburn led 33-28 at halftime.

Auburn would regain their 11 point lead twice in the second half’s first 4 minutes but Xavier always had an answer.

Auburn was able to keep about a 2 possession lead through most of the 2nd half but the Tigers got into foul trouble late on the interior, particularly Austin Wiley and Anfernee McLemore. Xavier had cut Auburn’s lead to 2, 74-72, when McLemore fouled out with 2:45 left.

Bryce Brown would hit a 3-pointer moments later to give Auburn some breathing room but Xavier responded again. Wiley fouled out with 26 seconds left and Xavier tied the game at 77 with 2 free throws. Bryce Brown would have a chance to win it in regulation but his shot was off target and 5 more minutes were needed.

The scoring was slow to start in OT but Horace Spencer was a GROWN man in the paint blocking a pair of shots that would have given Xavier the lead.

With Auburn up 78-77 with about 2:15 left in Overtime, Jared Harper took matters into his own hands and put his defender on a poster.

Sometimes size is overrated, and Jared Harper should be in the NBA, period. But I digress.

The closer would make another clutch shot with about a minute left to put Auburn up 83-79. Harper and Brown would knock down some free throws and then Bryce Brown put this game on ice in the final seconds with a breakway dunk to provide the final margin and a hard fought win for Auburn.

Bryce Brown had 26 points and 5 assists to lead Auburn in scoring. Jared Harper had 25 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds. Chuma Okeke had 13 points and 7 rebounds and Austin Wiley had 11 points off the bench.

Here are the highlights!

Auburn would fall the next night to Duke for their first setback of the season but would get one more crack at a blueblood in Maui. Come back tomorrow for #51 in the Countdown!

War Eagle!