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AUBURN, AL - MARCH 15 - Auburn's K.D. Johnson (0) during the game between the #12 Auburn Tigers and the South Carolina Gamecocks at Neville Arena in Auburn, AL on Friday, March 15, 2024. Photo by Zach Bland/Auburn Tigers

Auburn moves onto SEC Tournament semifinals after defeating South Carolina by 31 points

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (EETV) – Auburn wins first SEC Men’s Tournament game since winning it all in 2019 taking down South Carolina in Nashville, 86-55.

Johni Broome and Chaney Johnson led the team in scoring with 18 and 11 points, respectively.

“My main goal was just to improve game by game,” Johnson said. “I’m not going to lie, I ramped up my work ethic.”

South Carolina looked strong on the offensive glass in the opening minutes until coach Bruce Pearl and the Tigers made an adjustment which opened a 13-0 run.

Auburn held a double-digit lead for the rest of the opening half behind the staunch Tiger defense which forced seven turnovers and held USC to 7-for-28 shooting (25%).

“On the defensive side, we held our own and stood our ground.” Broome said after the game.

The Tigers finished the first frame on an 11-1 run and led the Gamecocks by 20 points behind 12 points from Broome.

Auburn only extended its lead in the second half ballooning all the way to 32 points with 11 Tigers getting at least one bucket.

"You got to play with effort and energy. We're committed to playing 10 guys. When you play 10 guys, look at the stat sheet with the number of guys that scored, look at the balance," coach Pearl said. "Look at all the guys that feel really good about the way they're playing and contributing. That's in that locker room. Those guys like each other, get along with each other, share the minutes. That allows you to not take plays off."

Auburn’s lockdown defense continued to the end and not onlyshowed in the Gamecocks shooting percentages, but also in steals and blocks, also known as “stocks”. The Tigers finished the game with 14 of these “stocks”(eight blocks, six steals).

South Carolina Guard Meechie Johnson was punished by the Auburn defense only scoring three points despite leading the Gamecocks all year with 14.4 points per game.

With 2:30 left on the clock, coach Pearl motioned for the walk-ons to check-in which the Auburn faithful responded with a loud standing ovation.

“That ain’t no neutral site now,” Coach Pearl said about the crowd. “That’s a home court advantage for the Auburn tigers because our fans traveled, and I’m just glad they don’t have to check out of their hotels tonight.”

Tomorrow, Auburn will take on Mississippi State who upset the one-seeded Volunteers. That game is scheduled for noon CT. A win will put the Tigers in the SEC Tournament Championship Game.