Marquette 68, Auburn 61
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) _ Freshman Aaron Hutchins scored a career-high 20 points and Marquette held Auburn without a field goal for almost nine minutes in the second half, giving the Golden Eagles a 68-61 victory Wednesday in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament.
Hutchins, a reserve averaging only 3.4 points a game, scored 8 during a 13-3 run which erased Auburn’s 52-49 lead and gave Marquette (18-11) a 61-55 advantage. His final basket was a back-breaker for the Tigers _ a 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down to put the Golden Eagles up by 6 with 2:52 remaining.
For the game, the stocky, 5-foot-9 guard connected on 5-of-7 from beyond the 3-point arc to bury Auburn (16-13), which was making only its second postseason appearance in seven years.
After Pat Burke’s reverse layup with 9:49 remaining, Auburn didn’t score another basket until Ray Donald hit a 3-pointer from the corner with 54 seconds left. It came too late because Marquette protected the lead by hitting six straight free throws the rest of the way.
Marquette, which went to the NCAA tournament the last two years, advances to meet the winner of Thursday night’s game between Southern Mississippi and St. Bonaventure. Auburn concluded its winningest season since 1988, when the Tigers last made the NCAA tourney.
Before a raucous crowd of 9,359 _ third largest of the season at Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum, which was playing host to a men’s postseason game for the first ever _ Auburn built a 37-35 lead at halftime and equaled its biggest lead when Chris Davis’ basket with 16:30 to go made it 45-39.
Marquette kept the Tigers from pulling away, then pounced when Auburn lost its shooting touch. Chris Crawford hit a 3-pointer with 5:57 remaining to put the Golden Eagles ahead to stay at 54-53.
Hutchins stretched the advantage, stealing the ball and going in for a layup, then hitting his fifth 3-pointer of the game to seal the victory. As a team, Marquette was 9-of-19 on the long-range shots.
Auburn, which shot 45 percent in the first half, managed only 9-of-27 in the second. Lance Weems and Chris Davis led the Tigers with 16 points apiece, with Davis working inside for a 6-of-9 shooting performance, while Weems did most of his damage outside by going 4-of-11 on 3-pointers.
Anthony Pieper added 12 points for Marquette, while Crawford and Amal McCaskill had 10 apiece.