NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Bryce Brown scored all 17 of his points in the second half, and No. 22 Auburn beat Missouri 81-71 Thursday in the second round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
Auburn (23-9) won its fifth straight to advance to the quarterfinals Friday against fourth-seeded South Carolina, and the Tigers also snapped a three-game skid at the SEC tournament dating back to 2015 when they reached the semifinals.
No. 12 seed Missouri (15-17) at least kept this game closer than the last game between these teams, a 34-point loss in Auburn on Jan. 30, and they even led by as much as four in the first half.
Auburn had to shake off a cold-shooting start by guards Jared Harper and Brown as they combined to miss their first 11 shots. Brown finally knocked down his seventh attempt with 16:02 left, and the senior strung together three straight 3s. The last came from the corner in front of his own bench, giving Auburn its biggest lead of the game at 49-39 with 14:44 to go.
Harper hit his first shot, a 3, with 3:12 left for a 71-63 lead.
Chuma Okeke added 12 points for Auburn. Horace Spencer and Malik Dunbar had 11 each.
Jordan Geist had a game-high 25 points for Missouri, and Torrence Watson matched his career high with 20.
Missouri kept Auburn from running away this time by shooting away outside the arc and making a season-high 15 3-pointers.
Auburn led 32-30 at halftime after Missouri made eight of its nine baskets outside the arc, and Xavier Pinson added a ninth to open the second and put Missouri back ahead. Missouri hit seven straight shots, the last a pair of 3s by Geist and then Watson’s, which tied it at 52 with 11:20 to go.
Spencer scored on a three-point play, Danjel Purifoy hit a 3 and Brown added his fourth 3 with 8:16 remaining to cap a quick 9-0 spurt. Missouri couldn’t get closer than four down the stretch but didn’t let Auburn lead by more than 10.
Missouri: These Tigers head home waiting for next year and the chance to win more than just once at the SEC tournament. Missouri has never won back-to-back games since joining this league for the 2012-13 season, but at least coach Cuonzo Martin leaves Nashville with the program’s fourth SEC tournament win. But a couple key freshmen struggled with Javon Pickett held scoreless and Pinson struggling with eight turnovers.
Auburn: The Tigers will need more from Harper and Brown moving forward. Brown did hit all four of his 3-point attempts in the second half. But their defense came through, converting 14 turnovers into a 24-17 scoring edge. They also dominated inside, outscoring Missouri 30-16 in the paint.
Auburn plays South Carolina on Friday in the SEC quarterfinals.
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