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Bryce Brown (2) Auburn men's basketball vs College of Charleston during the first round of the NCAA tournament on Friday, March 16, 2018, in San Diego, Calif.
Bryce Brown (2) Auburn men's basketball vs College of Charleston during the first round of the NCAA tournament on Friday, March 16, 2018, in San Diego, Calif. Photo by Wade Rackley/Auburn Athletics

Tigers narrowly escape first-round upset

SAN DIEGO, Ca. (EETV) - Despite struggling offensively, No. 4 Auburn avoids a first-round exit by No. 13 College of Charleston, defeating the Cougars 62-58 Friday night.

"Offensively, it was a struggle and we're going to have to play better on Sunday particularly to be able to advance,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said. "I gotta get them to relax a little more, enjoy the moment which maybe will free them up offensively so they can perform better.”

Charleston would keep Auburn on the ropes throughout the night. With the Tigers up by 4 with 7 seconds left on the clock, Charleston’s Grant Riller had the game in his hands but would come up well short for the Cougars, air-balling a three-point shot. Chuma Okeke would grab the rebound for the Tigers, helping seal Auburn’s first tournament win since 2003.

"I told Bryce, and I only had one timeout, I didn't want to burn it, to go ahead and foul," Pearl said of the last sequence. "And of course they missed it."

Riller’s missed shot would spark controversy of a missed call on Auburn’s Bryce Brown, who may or may not have hit Riller’s elbow on the shot release.

"I haven't seen it on film, but Bryce, a pretty good defender, I thought he was pretty vertical," Pearl said about the potential foul.

The Tigers got into foul trouble early, with point guard Jared Harper fouling twice in the first 1:05 of the game. Auburn would play the majority of the first half without their 'quarterback'.

Without Harper, the Tigers struggled to find an offensive rhythm in the first half, shooting 28.1% from the field (9-32).

Paired with offensive scoring trouble, Charleston would not go away. The Cougars had the hot hand in the first half, going 11-27 (40.7%) from the field and 2-10 (20%) from behind the arc.

"This was definitely probably the worst one of the year, definitely," guard Mustapha Heron said of Auburn's poor offensive shooting. "But it's good to survive and advance."

Charleston would go on a late half run to tie the game at 25 at the half.

Mustapha Heron stepped up for Auburn with the absence of Harper. Hef Harper. He led the Tigers on both ends of the court, finishing the game with 2 steals and a team-high 16 points.

Charleston’s Jarrell Brantley led the game in scoring, finishing with 24 points.

Auburn continued to struggle from behind the arc throughout the game, something that has plagued the Tigers since mid-February, going 0-13 in the first half. Brown would start to heat up, hitting Auburn’s first 3-pointer early in the second half.

"We don't have a dominating post player," Pearl said of why Auburn relies so heavily on their 3-game. "We get inside off of drives, off of slips and ball screens. We don't post up. So we better knock down some threes."

Brown would go 3-10 from three-point range and finished the night with 10 points.

With the win, Auburn dances into the second round. They will return to action in San Diego facing ACC foe No. 5 Clemson.

Clemson defeated New Mexico State Friday 79-68.

Tip-off with Clemson is set for 6:10 p.m. CT in San Diego. The game can be seen on TBS. a


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