Auburn survives College of Charleston, advances to second round of NCAA Tournament

Does Auburn and its head coach Bruce Pearl have any chance to win the 2018 NCAA basketball tournament? Here the Tigers celebrate a 90-71 win over Alabama Wednesday Feb. 21 2018 at Auburn Arena

"Me personally, I thought it was a foul", Riller said, "but it's not my job to worry about the calls". "That's the thing I've told the guys to try to break it down for them".

"We wanted to get to Sunday to have a chance to be one of 16 teams left with a win on Sunday", Pearl said.

We'll never know how the game might have turned out if Riller had gotten his potential game-tying 3-pointer off cleanly, but his teammates have faith it would have fallen. "He got a hand on that and game over". Auburn outlasted the College of Charleston in the opening round of the tournament while Clemson defeated New Mexico State. "Offensively, it was a struggle and we're going to have to play better on Sunday particularly to be able to advance".

The Charleston player most reluctant to criticize the referees Friday night was the one at the wrong end of a controversial no call. The official pointed to Harper, identifying him as the shooter.

Just as they have all season, somehow, Auburn found a way. The Tigers forced a team that entered the game averaging 9.6 turnovers per game to commit 10 in the first half and a season-high 21 overall, turning those into 21 points. Harper, who'd been in foul trouble most of the game, hit a huge three-pointer to give Auburn a momentary 59-56 lead.

Nervousness plagued Auburn (26-7) in the estimation of Pearl, who attributed the team's surprisingly poor free-throw shooting - 15 of 32 - to excessive pressure of representing the Southeastern Conference. Then, Okeke, who shoots 69 percent from the line, tossed the ball to sophomore guard Jared Harper, who knocks down free throws at an 82 percent clip, and Harper ended up standing at the free-throw line. Brantley went on a 7-0 run by himself just past the midway point of the half to give the Cougars a 50-48 lead with 6:03 remaining - their first since there was 14:29 left in the first half. Harper finished the game with 6 points, while Okeke finished with 2.

The Tigers also needs Bryce Brown to return to form.

"For Auburn to get to come to San Diego, California, travel as well as we do - this is a real reward", he said.

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