GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) — Isaiah Wong scored 21 points, Kameron McGusty had 20 and No. 10 seed Miami neutralized second-seeded Auburn’s Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler in a 79-61 victory to reach its first Sweet 16 in six years.
The Hurricanes (25-10), seeded 10th in the Midwest Region, will head to Chicago to take on No. 11 seed Iowa State in a matchup surely no one saw coming.
Charlie Moore added 15 points and eight assists as Miami advanced to the round of 16 for the fourth time overall and third time in coach Jim Larranaga’s 10 seasons. And they did it against Auburn’s frontcourt of future NBA big men.
The 6-foot-10 Smith and 7-1 Kessler are projected NBA first-round draft picks should they leave the Tigers (28-6), yet they were largely ineffective against Miami’s experienced lineup.
The Hurricanes have six players with four years or more of college experience — they start three sixth-year “super seniors” — and used that savvy to frustrate Auburn’s advantage inside.
Smith struggled to make shots, finishing 3 of 16 for 10 points — and got dunked on by the 6-3 Wong two days after Smith’s one-handed jam in the opening round win over Jacksonville State was the talk of the tournament.
Kessler picked up two early fouls and spent much of the opening half on the bench. He, too, couldn’t find his touch and missed all six of his attempts and tied his season low of two points after finishing with 13 points, 10 rebounds and nine blocks against Jacksonville State.
The Southeastern Conference champions never held the lead, yet were only down 33-32 at the half.
But the Hurricanes opened the second half with a 15-7 burst off four points apiece by Wong and McGusty. By the time Moore hit a 3-pointer, the score was 48-39 and the raucous Auburn crowd at the start was quiet.
Miami eventually built the lead to 14 points and the Tigers had no answers, losing in the NCAA’s second round for the second time in their three tournament appearances under coach Bruce Pearl.
Jaylin Williams and K.D. Johnson led Auburn with 12 points each. Smith had a game-high 15 rebounds.
Miami: Larranaga would love to recapture the magic of his 2006 George Mason team’s run to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed. His Hurricanes are sharp right now. They’ve committed a total of just seven turnovers in two tournament games with Moore, at his fourth school in six years, in charge of the offense.
Auburn: The Tigers looked like a national championship contender much of the season. But their shooting touch went cold down the stretch. They shot just 30.4% (21 of 69) against Miami, the third time in the past six games they were under 40 percent.
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