Rushed Reactions: #4 Auburn 62, #13 Charleston 58

Posted by rtmsf on March 16th, 2018

RTC will be providing coverage of the NCAA Tournament from start to finish.

Three Key Takeaways.

Auburn Flexed at the End of Their Tough Victory Today (USA Today Images)

  1. Auburn and Charleston Started Cold as Ice, Finished Hot. In the first half the two teams combined to shoot 2-of-23 from three-point range (Auburn was 0-of-13 on its own), allowing Charleston to stay close enough to give the Cougars reason to hope for the big upset going into the second half. For most of that half, it appeared that the team that made the biggest couple of plays down the stretch would end up with the victory — and that was an accurate assumption. After Charleston had taken the lead on a three-pointer from Marquise Pointer with three minutes remaining, clutch back-to-back threes from Auburn’s Bryce Brown and Jared Harper gave the Tigers some final breathing room. After such a miserable first-half shooting performance, the two teams nailed four of their 10 threes during the game-ending stretch.
  2. Except From the Foul Line. There’s an old adage that championship-level teams hit their free throws when they count, and it was certainly put to the test this evening with Charleston and Auburn. The two teams combined to shoot less than 50 percent from the line, but it was truthfully the spirit-crushing misses by Charleston down the stretch that made the difference in the game. From the 1:40 mark forward — crunch time of a tie game — the Cougars missed four of their seven free throw attempts, effectively ceding the momentum to an Auburn team that had proven shaky to that point. Auburn didn’t exactly close things out from the line itself, missing four of its own in the final minute. But by that time, the threes from Harper and Brown had given the Tigers a working margin.
  3. Should There Have Been a Call? Notwithstanding all the missed foul shots and the questionable decision-making in the final few minutes of this game, it appeared as if Charleston’s Grant Riller was fouled on a long three-point attempt to tie the game with three seconds remaining. Of course, Riller had already missed a couple free throws on the evening, so there was no guarantee that he would have made three to send the game to overtime. But unlike many no-calls where referees swallow the whistle in close games, it’s usually an automatic call when a jump shooter gets raked across the arm. Charleston will lament the call, certainly, but the Cougars really put themselves in that precarious position.

Player of the Game. Mustapha Heron, Auburn. In an ugly game devoid of any super performances, Heron gets the nod here for his 16-point, five-rebound night that included several key buckets during a second-half stretch when Charleston was pushing forward.

Quotable.

  • “No, this was definitely probably worst one of the year, definitely. But it’s good to survive and advance.” — Auburn’s Mustapha Heron, on the Tigers’ quality of play today.
  • “Only difference this year is Auburn is part of it.” — Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl, describing his pride in his team being a part of the NCAA Tournament this year.
  • “I think I got touched, but it’s not my job to worry about foul calls or not.” — Charleston’s Grant Riller, referring to the final shot.

Sights and Sounds. There’s nothing quite like a generally neutral building starting to get the fever of a plucky underdog in the second half of a close game. When Charleston’s Jarrell Brantley dropped a three from the right wing with around seven minutes left in the game to give Charleston a lead, Viejas Arena exploded. The venue was raucous the rest of the way as the two teams traded missed foul shots, deep threes and assorted haymakers back and forth. This play from the first half was also quite nasty.

What’s Next. Auburn advances to the Round of 32 for only the third time since 2000. Charleston will head back to South Carolina dreaming of what could have been with a couple made free throws.

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