The No. 2 seeded Auburn Tigers took on the No. 10 seeded Miami Hurricanes at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, SC tonight in the second round of the 2022 NCAA tournament. Auburn came into this game after an 80-61 win over the 15th seed Jacksonville State Gamecocks Thursday afternoon. Miami came into this one after knocking off the seventh seeded USC Trojans on Thursday afternoon. The starting five for Auburn were K.D. Johnson, Zep Jasper, Allen Flanigan, Jabari Smith, and Walker Kessler. The starting five for Miami were Isaiah Wong, Charlie Moore, Jordan Miller, Kameron McGusty, and Sam Waardenburg.
Auburn got off to a rocky start, allowing Miami to score the first four points. Bruce Pearl said “Miami played very well, their experience, their speed, their quickness right from the jump. They had us”, about Miami’s hot start. Auburn’s first points would come from two free-throws from Walker Kessler. At the 16:47 mark, Miami had gotten out to an 8-2 lead. K.D. Johnson would go to the line and hit two to make the score 13-6 with 14:59 left in the first half. Jaylin Williams hit a put-back jumper to make the score 17-10 and then a lay-up to make the score 17-12 with 10:38 left in the first half. Zep Jasper banked in a mid-range jumper to bring the score to 23-16 with 6:33 left in the first half. Wendell Green hit two free-throws to cut Miami’s lead to three. Jaylin Williams hit a big three-pointer to make the score 29-25. Jaylin Williams hit another three-pointer to make it a three-point game. Wendell Green hit a big lay-up to make the score 33-32 with 0:53 left in the first half. That was the score at the end of the first half.
Auburn’s leading scorer in the first half was Jaylin Williams with 10 points. Wendell Green led them in assists with three. Jabari Smith led the Tigers in rebounds with eight. Miami’s leading scorers were Isaiah Wong and Jordan Miller who had 10 points each. Charlie Moore and Kameron McGusty led them in assists with two each. Charlie Moore also led the Hurricanes in rebounds with five.
Miami got off to a hot start in the second half, extending their lead to eight before Auburn was able to score. Zep Jasper hit two free-throws at the 17:16 mark for Auburn’s first points in the second half. K.D. Johnson hit a three-pointer to make the score 41-37, but Miami answered right back with a lay-up. Miami would stay hot and make the score 48-39. K.D. Johnson hit a lay-up to end the run. Jaylin Williams followed it up with another to cut Miami’s lead to five. Miami responded back and built their lead back up to ten. With 7:56 left in the game, Auburn trailed 62-50. Unfortunately, momentum didn’t seem to be shifting as Miami led 70-58 with 3:00 left. The final score was 79-61. When asked about the reasons behind Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler’s struggles tonight, Bruce Pearl said, “If I knew, I probably could have prevented it”.
Auburn’s leading scorers’ tonight were K.D. Johnson and Jaylin Williams who had 12 each. Jabari Smith led them in rebounds with 15. The Tigers leader in assists was Wendell Green who had five. Miami’s leading scorer was Isaiah Wong with 21 points. Charlie Moore led them in assists with eight and rebounds with nine.
When asked about Miami’s ability to shut him down, Jabari Smith said “They're just very physical in every catch. They sent somebody any time I tried to attack or make a move”, He added “They just kept bodies on me. They switched every ball screen. So just made it kind of tough for me.”
Jaylin Williams was asked about his good play tonight. He answered, “After the first one, I felt pretty good and confident in my shot. Then I played as hard as I could to try to win the game for our team.”
When asked about his thoughts on this Miami team, Bruce Pearl said, “They're good. They've got good pieces. They're really quick.” He also acknowledged Miami’s guard play, “The guards, each one of those guards, Wong and Moore and McGusty, they're all going to win those three kids are going to win their matchup almost every night, right?”
When asked about what he took away from this year, Bruce Pearl said, “But what I'll take from this team is the fact that they brought it every night. They won more games on the road than any team in the SEC in league play, and we have the best home court advantage in league play.” He added, “That's why we were able to finish. We finished 15-3 in the league. So champions.”