KANSAS CITY, MO (WSFA) - After a slow first half, the Auburn Tigers kicked it into gear. For the first time in school history, Auburn is headed to the Final Four after taking down Kentucky 77-71 in overtime.
After Jared Harper tied the game at 60 with 38 seconds remaining, Kentucky turned the ball over but Horace Spencer’s three-point shot was no good as time expired.
In overtime, it was the Jared Harper show. Harper scored 12 of Auburn’s 17 points in the overtime period. Harper would finish with 26 points.
How we got there was a story of determination that Auburn’s displayed the last two games. After wiping the floor with Kansas in the round of 32, the Tigers needed to overcome deficits against No. 1 seed North Carolina in the Sweet 16, as well as No. 2 seed Kentucky in Sunday’s Elite 8 matchup.
Sunday’s hill was the toughest by far that Auburn had to climb. Kentucky held an 11-point lead over a Chuma Okeke-less Auburn at one point, the largest the Tigers had seen all tournament long. On top of that, several of Auburn’s players were in heavy foul trouble not even 10 minutes into the game, but still they found a way.
After neither Harper nor Bryce Brown had recorded a single point in the game’s first eight minutes, it was Harper and Brown who led the Tigers in scoring the rest of the way.
Auburn somehow, someway turned a 22-11 deficit into 35-30 by the half with Malik Dunbar, Horace Spencer, Danjel Purifoy and Austin Wiley all in foul trouble.
After the break, a hungry Auburn Tigers team took the court. Initiating a full-court press that fell into a half-court zone to protect its players, Auburn went on an 9-2 run to open the second half to capture a 40-37 lead led by human flamethrower Bryce Brown. His turnaround three from the corner after a missed free throw worked out for Auburn as the Tigers gained their first lead of the contest.
Brown, who had just 7 points at the half, erupted like a building volcano for 18 points in the second half. From three-point shooting to a near-perfect pull-up at the free throw line, Brown had it all in his bag.
Together, he and Harper combined for 35 points in the second half and overtime period, scoring 35 of Auburn’s 47 points after the first half.
Bruce Pearl’s sensational backcourt was able to outshine Kentucky star PJ Washington Jr, who finished with 28 points and 13 boards. Kentucky had taken down Auburn twice before, but Auburn was the victor the third time around.
Auburn will play Virginia next Saturday in the Final Four.