Technically, Auburn’s 73-64 win over USC in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament in Nashville Friday was an upset. By the seeds, Auburn was #5 and USC #4. But, this was no upset. The Tigers were headed to the NCAA Tournament regardless of the outcome and in the second half they just went out and took the game from USC to extend their winnings streak to six.
The teams played to a 36-36 draw at the half as the Gamecocks shot 50% and the Tigers responded by making eight three pointers. The Gamecocks stayed close for the first 12 minutes of the second half and trailed by one at 55-54. They held the Tigers without a field goal for seven minutes starting at the 14:50 mark of the second half.
But the Tigers then ran off the next five points to lead 60-54 with 7:26 left. From there, the Gamecocks couldn’t come up with enough stops to get back into the game, or enough offense. Auburn made five of its seven final shots including a pair of threes. The Tigers also hit their last six free throws. The Gamecocks made just two of their final eight shots, and that included a three by Chris Silva on the final shot of his career with :11 to play and the game no longer in doubt.
Silva went out in style with 27 points and 11 rebounds for his 12th double-double of the season and 27th of his career. In the USC record books, Silva finished tied for fifth with Nate Davis in career starts, 6th in rebounding, 3rd in made free throws and free throws attempted and 6th in blocked shots. Silva also finished his career with 1509 points and passed Art Whisnant for 10th place on the school’s all-time scoring list.
Auburn’s dyanamic backcourt of Jared Harper and Bryce Brown was too much for the Gamecocks to handle. They combined for 46 points and hit eight of the Tigers’ 13 threes. Auburn set the SEC record for three-pointers in a season with 368. Harper, who scored 20 of his 27 points in the second half, also went 12-14 from the line.
The Tigers’ fast pace and three point shooting combined with 18 Gamecock turnovers were the difference in the game. 10 of those turnovers were straight steals. Factor in five blocks and the Gamecocks had 23 empty possessions in the game.
The Gamecocks finish the season at 16-16, though they were 15-16 against Division One teams. Along with Silva, Campbell and Hassani Gravett were the other seniors playing their final game for USC.
USC postgame press conference with Frank Martin, Chris Silva & Tre Campbell
Chris Silva locker room media session
Hassani Gravett with the media in the locker room