No. 5 Auburn tops South Carolina 82-71 to win SEC outright
AUBURN, Ala. - Jabari Smith scored 21 points, K.D. Johnson had 18 and No. 5 Auburn won the Southeastern Conference title with an 82-71 victory over South Carolina on Saturday.
The Tigers (27-4, 15-3 SEC) secured the No. 1 seed for next week’s league tournament in Tampa, Florida, after entering the day one game up on No. 7 Kentucky, No. 13 Tennessee and No. 14 Arkansas.
No tiebreakers needed, though the Gamecocks (18-12, 9-9) did rally after trailing by 19 early in the second half.
Auburn players celebrated on the court amid a flurry of orange and blue confetti. The team held at least a share of the SEC lead all season.
Smith made 3 of 3 3-pointers and is 21 of 37 over the last six games, when he’s averaging 25 points. Kessler scored 11 and Wendell Green 10 for the Tigers. Kessler played his second straight game with a brace on his left shoulder from an injury sustained last weekend against Tennessee.
All four are in their first season with the Tigers.
It’s the Tigers’ fourth regular season SEC title, joining Pearl’s 2018 team and the 1960 and 1999 teams.
Auburn would have been the No. 2 seed in Tampa with a loss because of head-to-head records among the four teams still in contention entering Saturday.
The Tigers closed the first half on a 24-9 tear to take a 48-31 lead into halftime. Smith scored all 15 of his first-half points in the final 11 minutes after South Carolina pulled to within two.
Auburn pushed the lead to 19 coming out of the locker room, but South Carolina cut it to 78-71 with 1:16 left on Couisnard’s second straight layup.
The Tigers made 4 of 6 free throws from there.
> Carolina outrebounded Auburn 40-39. It is the fourth loss this season for the Gamecocks when they collect more rebounds than their opponents.
> The Auburn bench outscored the Carolina bench 19-9.
> The Tigers shot 43.5 percent from beyond the arc, making 10 3-pointers on Saturday.
> Auburn had four players in double figures, including two players who scored 18 or more.
> Jermaine Couisnard scored a game-high 22 points. He has scored in double figures in the last five games and six of the Gamecocks’ last eight.
> Couisnard is averaging 21.4 points per game in Carolina’s last five matchups.
> Couisnard made nine free throws on Saturday, matching his career high.
> James Reese V also scored 18 for the Gamecocks. He went 3-for-5 from deep to help notch his third-highest scoring performance in a Gamecock uniform.
> South Carolina awaits to find out who and when it will play in the SEC Tournament next week in Tampa. The Gamecocks are one of six teams separated by just one game in the standings for seeds 5-10. Carolina will play Thursday, an opponent and game time TBD.
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