When a program hasn't played a game on the sport's biggest stage in 15 years, there's going to be some nerves at the outset. And College of Charleston they kick their legs out on 3s.
Charleston scored the last seven points of the first half, including a 3-pointer by Joe Chealey, to pull into a 25-all tie.
The shots weren't falling, so Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl turned to his quick hands on defense.
The 19th-ranked Auburn basketball team played outstanding defense and knocked down timely shots down the stretch to defeat College of Charleston, 62-58, in the first round of the NCAA Midwest Regional at Viejas Arena Friday. Pearl said. "We were struggling offensively, and we found a way".
Despite Charleston shooting 41 percent versus Auburn's 28 percent during the first half, the Tigers took advantage in the paint.
Mustapha Heron scored 16 points for Auburn, which also shot 20.8 percent from 3-point range (5-of-24). They just weren't falling.
No one on Auburn ever got into a real shooting rhythm.
There's a reason that the saying in March is "survive and advance".
Auburn is a 9-point favorite in tonight's contest.
Still, despite an 0-for-6 start, Brown made sure to embody the tried-and-true scorer's motto of "shooters shoot".
The Cougars had a chance to tie it late after Davion Mitchell missed a pair of free throws, but Bryce Brown made a defensive stop on Grant Riller's 3-point attempt, and Harper hit the free throw that iced the game. It was just his fourth points of the game.
"They're trying to make history", Pearl said. "He's nearly conditioned by nature to look for his shot". They got to the free throw line at will and finished the game 15-for-32 compared to Charleston's 7-for-14 performance.
The Cougars' Riller let fly a triple from the right wing, defended by Brown.
But it didn't come without controversy. Jay Bilas of ESPN said it appeared Brown hit Riller's shooting elbow.