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Carter Williams, KSL.com

Bryce Brown, hot-shooting Auburn Tigers breeze past Kansas to reach first Sweet 16 in 16 years

By Carter Williams, KSL.com | Posted - Mar 23rd, 2019 @ 11:32pm


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SALT LAKE CITY — Auburn guard Bryce Brown flashed a large smile and raised his arms to the sky to celebrate with the Tigers fans moments after the final buzzer rang.

Just in front of him, his coach, Bruce Pearl, waved a towel around like an overzealous fan and blew kisses to the crowd.

Needless to say, the Tigers' 89-75 win over Kansas Saturday night at Vivint Arena meant the world for Auburn, which advanced to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA men's basketball tournament for the first time since 2003.

"We're awfully excited to have advanced to the Sweet 16. It's the fifth time in Auburn basketball history that we managed to do that," Pearl said. "We're just grateful — all of us — for the opportunity to represent Auburn in this kind of competition."

Brown led the way for the Tigers with 25 points on 9 of 13 shots. Seventeen of his points came in the first half. He credited the team's ability on defense that paved the way for good looks on offense. Those shots were falling.

Three other Auburn players finished with double-digit figures in scoring.

"That's what it's been like all season long," Brown said. "We get out in transition, knock down shots. I feel like that's just part of who we are and what we do. If we continue to do that and we continue to win ball games and go even further."

Forward Dedric Lawson led Kansas with 25 points and 10 rebounds for his 22nd double-double of the season.

Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl waves a towel in celebration as he walks off the court at Vivint Arena following Auburn's 89-75 win over Kansas in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday, March 23, 2019. (Photo: Carter Williams, KSL.com)

Auburn ran out of the gate on a 15-5 run and didn’t let off the pedal from there, rolling into the halftime break with a 51-25 advantage.

"We hadn't seen an onslaught like that all year," Kansas head coach Bill Self said. "They rattled us, and we didn't respond very well."

"Everything seemed like it was going in for them," Jayhawks guard Marcus Garrett added, dejectedly.

Kansas barely made a dent in the second half as Auburn continued to drain shot after shot. The Tigers were able to cruise to an easy victory.

Auburn shot a robust 53 percent from the floor and made 13 of 30 attempts (43 percent) from beyond the arc in the win.

Kansas shot 59 percent from the floor in the second half, but couldn't overcome its slow first half. The Jayhawks made just 30 percent of their shots in the first half and wound up shooting 46 percent from the floor and 32 percent from 3-point range.

While it was an upset on paper, with Kansas a 4-seed in the Midwest bracket and Auburn a 5-seed, Pearl said he believed Auburn was the better team and Saturday's game showed that. Self said he was nervous when he saw the potential matchup with Auburn in the second round once the bracket was released on Selection Sunday.

"I watched them play and they're fast. Those are the teams we obviously struggle the most against," he said.

The Auburn players were looking forward to returning to campus and Alabama to celebrate the success this weekend in Salt Lake City. The Tigers will look to try to advance to the Elite Eight for the first time since 1986 — the only time the program has reached that far in the 80-year history of the tournament.

"Coming back to school, there will be a lot of support moving forward," guard Jared Harper said.

The Tigers will now await the winner between No. 1 North Carolina and No. 9 Washington Sunday in the Sweet 16. That game will be held in Kansas City, Missouri.

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Carter Williams

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