EditorsNote: 5th graf, change Daniel to Danjel
Jared Harper gave Auburn the lead for good on a layup with 15:43 remaining in the game and the 22nd-ranked Tigers withstood several South Carolina challenges before pulling away for a 73-64 victory Friday afternoon in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference men’s basketball tournament in Nashville, Tenn.
Auburn, the fifth seed in the tournament, moves on to Saturday’s semifinals and will face eighth-seeded Florida, which shocked top-seeded and ninth-ranked LSU 76-73 in an earlier quarterfinal.
After a first half that featured five ties and 10 lead changes, Auburn and South Carolina remained deadlocked at 42-all in the fifth minute of the second period before Harper’s layup.
The fourth-seeded Gamecocks were able to get within a point on subsequent occasions, the last time at 55-54 on a pair of free throws by Chris Silva with 8:13 to go.
But Harper dropped in another layup and Danjel Purifoy buried a 3-pointer for a six-point lead with 7:30 to play, and the Tigers were never seriously threatened after that.
Harper had a team-high 27 points for the Tigers (24-9), who avenged an 80-77 regular-season loss at South Carolina.
Harper made 12 of his 14 free throws, helping Auburn outscore South Carolina 18-12 at the line.
Harper also contributed six rebounds and six assists in the victory, which extended Auburn’s winning streak to six.
The Tigers advanced to the quarterfinals with an 81-71 win over Missouri on Thursday.
Bryce Brown had 19 points and Samir Doughty 10 for Auburn, which beat Florida 76-62 at home in February in their only regular-season meeting.
Silva matched Harper’s point total with 27 for South Carolina (16-16), which was seeking to reach the SEC tournament semifinals for the first time since 2006.
The loss snapped the Gamecocks’ two-game winning streak. They had received a bye into the quarterfinals by virtue of their top-four seeding.
Silva completed the game’s only double-double with 11 rebounds.
Felipe Haase and Tre Campbell had 12 points apiece for the Gamecocks, with Campbell also registering five assists and four steals.
Both teams shot 44.7 percent from the field.
—Field Level Media