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Men's Basketball Championship - Midwest Region - 2nd Round - Bon Secours Wellness Arena - Greenville, SC

Auburn suffers elimination after falling to Miami

65 days ago
Auburn Athletics
Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

GREENVILLE, S.C. - Auburn rallied late in the first half but Miami scored the first eight points of the second half and steadily pulled away to advance to the Sweet 16, eliminating the Tigers 79-61 Sunday at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in the second round of the NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional.

"Miami played very well," Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. "We were disrupted. This is the first time we got it handed to us. We didn't know how to respond. Their experience showed. We hadn't been hit in the mouth all year. They hit us in the mouth again at the beginning of the second half."

It was the only time this season Auburn never led in a game. The second-seeded Tigers ended an SEC championship season with a 28-6 record.

"Our team did an amazing job this year coming together and winning an SEC championship," Pearl said. "It's been a great locker room. Unbelievable character, unbelievable effort and energy."

Two days after needing a trip to dentist after an elbow to the mouth during Auburn's first-round victory over Jacksonville State, Jaylin Williams came off the bench to spark the Tigers with 12 points and four rebounds.

"I felt pretty good and confident with my shot," Williams said. "Played as hard as I could to try to win for my team."

SEC Freshman of the Year Jabari Smith notched his second March Madness double-double, scoring 10 points and grabbing a career-high 15 rebounds.

"Thanking Auburn for everything," Smith said. "If I had to make this decision a thousand times, I wouldn't choose anywhere else but Auburn."

"He's such a great competitor and such a great teammate," Pearl said. "He truly does love his teammates. He's been raised right. He's got great people around him. He's not selfish. He's hard-working, he's disciplined. He's a pro. He had a great experience at Auburn, and he made history at Auburn. I'm obviously very proud of him."

K.D. Johnson shared the team scoring lead with 12 points. Johnson's 3-pointer pulled the Tigers within four at 41-37 early in the second half but Auburn never got closer, shooting 23.7 percent in the half and 30.4 percent for the game. Miami outscored the Tigers 46-29 in the second half.

The 10th-seeded Hurricanes committed only four turnovers while building a decisive 30-1 edge in fastbreak points thanks to their 10 steals, leading to a 17-2 advantage in points off turnovers.

Wendell Green Jr. scored 11 points, adding five rebounds and five assists. Allen Flanigan grabbed eight rebounds.

After trailing by nine with 7:27 left in the first half, Auburn closed the half on an 18-10 run to pull within a point at 33-32 at halftime.

Williams led the Tigers with 10 points in the first half on 4-for-5 shooting, including both of his 3-point attempts.

With Walker Kessler picking up two early fouls, Williams played 10 minutes in the half, sharing the 5 position with Dylan Cardwell.

The Tigers outrebounded Miami 23-16 in the half to help overcome an 8-2 turnover disadvantage that gave the Hurricanes an 8-0 edge in points off turnovers.

Auburn fans made their presence felt, bringing a touch of Neville Arena to Greenville by cheering loudly when Devan Cambridge soared to slam an offensive rebound and again when Williams hit both of his 3-pointers.

The loss ended a historic season for Auburn, one in which the Tigers won the SEC regular season championship for the fourth time, the second under Pearl in the past five seasons.

"We have been the winningest program in the SEC over the last five years," Pearl said. "We've won three championships in five years. I take great pride in the consistency of our program's success, and I'm ready to build it back."