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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.
“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.