Not since Sonny Smith had the Auburn Tigers made an Elite Eight in an NCAA Tournament run. Well, that 33-year drought has come to an end in an emphatic way.
The Tigers trounced the North Carolina Tar Heels in Kansas City on Friday night. With their 97-80 win over the 1-seeded Heels, Auburn is now a good 40 minutes away from the program’s first Final Four appearance in history.
Auburn’s 11th win in a row was put together, how else, by great shooting. The TIgers shot 17-for-37 from the perimeter and 54.5 percent on 66 attempts from the floor. The second half was particularly kind to them as they went 12-for-18 from beyond the arc and 18-for-28 from the floor. It was a sparkling performance in comparison to their opponents, who shot just 2-for-13 from long range and 14-for-33 from the field in the second half.
The Tigers were led by six players who scored in double figures. Chuma Okeke led with 20 points and had 11 boards to boot, but Okeke’s night ended in unfortunate circumstances. He went down hard on his ankle and had to leave the game after what could only be described as a devastating injury. We wish him nothing but the best and hope for nothign but the best for him going forward.
Elsewhere, Malik Dunbar was second on the team in scoring with 13 points. Bryce Brown followed him up with 12 points, as did Danjel Purifoy. Samir Doughty and J’Von McCormick each had 10 points to round things out, as all six players who hit double figures on the night contributed in their own ways to push the Tigers through to the Elite Eight. Jared Harper had nine points, falling short of the mark, but had 11 assists on the night.
The Tar Heels got 15 apiece from Coby White and Cameron Johnson, 13 from Luke Maye and 13 from Kenny Williams. And granted, 80 points should win you a LOT of games in college. Unfortunately for UNC, they just had zero answer for anything that the Tigers were dishing out to them, and just couldn’t stop them at all.
Auburn will play either the Houston Cougars or the Kentucky Wildcats, a familiar nemesis of theirs, on Sunday in Kansas City for the right to go to the Final Four.