Clemson 84, Auburn 72
CLEMSNON, S.C. (AP) _ Devin Gray had 23 points and helped Clemson hold off Auburn 84-72 in the first round of the NIT on Thursday night.
Clemson (17-12) took a 22-point lead in the first half, but had that cut to 73-65 with just more than 3 minutes remaining.
However, Gray had a slam dunk and then followed with a 3-point play to extend the lead to 13 points with 2:27 to go.
Andre Bovain had 21 points for Clemson, while Wesley Person scored a game- high 28 for Auburn (15-12).
Clemson, which has won 5 of its last 7, will play either Alabama or Alabama-Birimingham in the second round of the NIT.
Gray scored 14 points in the first half as Clemson opened a 40-18 lead. Auburn scored the next 8 points on two baskets by Aaron Swinson and buckets by Person and Ronnie Battle.
But Bruce Martin made the last of his 3 first-half 3-pointers to put Clemson back in control.
After leading 51-35 at the half, Clemson quickly got the lead back to 20 points as Gray put back a miss by Bovain.
But then the Clemson Tigers got sloppy, getting only two field goals in the next 8 minutes.
Person had a pair of 3-pointers and Aubrey Wiley had 4 points as Auburn made it 65-54. A steal by Wiley and a pass ahead for a Person layup sliced the lead to 72-63.
After Bovain made 1 of 2 free throws, Reggie Gallon scored with 3:04 to go, bringing Auburn within 8 points. But the Auburn Tigers got no closer.
It’s Clemson’s first victory in the NIT since 1986, when the team, led by the Chicago Bulls’ Horace Grant, defeated Georgia in the second round.
After Wiley scored on a layin off the opening tap, Aubburn scored just one field goal the next 6 minutes as Clemson took a 16-5 lead.