Auburn Toys With Jax State For 80-61 Win In First Round, To Play USC-Miami Winner

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No. 2 seed Auburn let No. 15 seed Jacksonville State hang around briefly, then put the hammer down with defense and rebounding for an 80-61 victory in Greenville, South Carolina on Friday afternoon.

Auburn (28-5) advances to a Sunday game against the winner of Friday afternoon’s game between No. 7 seed USC (26-7) and No. 10 seed Miami (23-10). The winner of that advances to the NCAA Sweet 16.

The Tigers, who were just 5-4 to end the season, played one of their better games in recent weeks and looked more like the team that won the Southeastern Conference regular season title at 15-3. Auburn outrebounded Jacksonville State (21-11) by 50-32.

Forward Jabari Smith led the way with 14 rebounds and 20 points, including a thunderous dunk. Center Walker Kessler added 13 points, 10 rebounds and nine blocked shots.

In the end, Auburn had more trouble getting to the game than winning it.

“We talked about defense and rebounding winning championships,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. “That’s how we won the SEC. You can control your destiny when you guard like that and fly around. Our kids played with great energy and effort, and that’s why we won.”

Guards Allen Flanigan and K.D. Johnson each scored 10 points with five rebounds. Johnson also had seven assists.

Guard Jalen Gibbs scored 20 to lead Atlantic Sun Conference regular season champion Jacksonville State of Jacksonville, Alabama.

Written by Glenn Guilbeau

Guilbeau joined OutKick as an SEC columnist in September of 2021 after covering LSU and the Saints for 17 years at USA TODAY Louisiana. He has been a national columnist/feature writer since the summer of 2022, covering college football, basketball and baseball with some NFL, NBA, MLB, TV and Movies and general assignment, including hot dog taste tests.

A New Orleans native and Mizzou graduate, he has consistently won Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) and Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) awards since covering Alabama and Auburn at the Mobile Press-Register (1993-98) and LSU and the Saints at the Baton Rouge Advocate (1998-2004). In 2021, Guilbeau won an FWAA 1st for a game feature, placed in APSE Beat Writing, Breaking News and Explanatory, and won Beat Writer of the Year from the Louisiana Sports Writers Association (LSWA). He won an FWAA columnist 1st in 2017 and was FWAA's top overall winner in 2016 with 1st in game story, 2nd in columns, and features honorable mention.

Guilbeau completed a book in 2022 about LSU's five-time national champion coach - "Everything Matters In Baseball: The Skip Bertman Story" - that is available at, and Barnes & Noble outlets. He lives in Baton Rouge with his wife, the former Michelle Millhollon of Thibodaux who previously covered politics for the Baton Rouge Advocate and is a communications director.

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