Jared Harper scored a game-high 17 points as No. 5 seed Auburn survived potential game-winning free throws by No. 12 seed New Mexico State to win 78-77 Thursday in a Midwest Region first-round game in Salt Lake City.
Auburn took a 13-point lead with 7:10 left but committed six turnovers after that and was hanging on to a 78-76 lead with 6.0 seconds left after Samir Doughty made the second of two free-throw attempts.
AJ Harris took the inbounds pass and sped up court. He was wide open driving through the paint to the basket to potentially tie the game with a layup before deciding to whip the ball back out to Terrell Brown for a 3-point shot. Brown missed the shot but was fouled by Bryce Brown with 1.7 seconds left.
Terrell Brown, a 78-percent free-throw shooter, missed the first, made the second and his third attempt went in and out, with the rebound going out of bounds to the Aggies with 1.1 seconds to go and Auburn up one. Trevelin Queen, off a screen, got an open look from the left corner but shot an airball.
The Tigers (27-9) will play Saturday in the second round against the No. 4 Kansas, an 87-53 winner over No. 13 Northeastern.
WAC champion New Mexico State finished 30-5 after its 19-game winning streak was stopped.
Auburn made just 3 of 12 from behind the arc in the first half but was 9 of 19 in the second half to extend its SEC season record for 3-pointers to 408. This was the Tigers’ 24th game of the season with double-digit makes from long range.
Auburn junior guard J’Von McCormick scored a season-high 16 points. Sophomore Chuma Okeke added 13.
Johnny McCants led New Mexico State with 16 points. Queen scored 14, including a deep three with 28.1 seconds remaining to make it a one-point game. Terrell Brown added 12 points while Ivan Aurrecoechea had 13 points and nine rebounds.
Auburn committed three turnovers in the final 1:05 and missed the front end of a one-and-one to give the Aggies a chance.
New Mexico State again got within one at 77-76 when JoJo Zamora drained a 3-pointer with 6.9 seconds left.
Auburn led 32-29 at halftime, then hit its first two 3-point shots, forced turnovers on four consecutive possessions and went on a 10-0 run, capped by Bryce Brown’s steal near midcourt that led to a layup and a 45-33 lead.
—Field Level Media