Sweet Shot In Sweet 16

Sophomore Nathan Watson was a key player in a second half charge by the Tigers.

Albany, N.Y.--Nathan Watson, who overcame his shooting slump in time for postseason play, almost pushed the Tigers over the top in Syracuse's close-call victory over Auburn in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament.

Watson hit four of Auburn's 10 three-point baskets and was five of eight overall from the field for the game. He added two assists, two steals and a rebound in 29 strong minutes off the bench.

Nathan Watson

The sophomore guard was a major reason the Tigers nearly knocked off third-seed Syracuse as Watson sparked Auburn's final run of the night. He made three treys in the final two minutes.

"I thought we came back strong in the second half," Watson told Inside the Auburn Tigers. "We struggled in the first half, but in the second half we started getting into the gaps in the zone and we were shooting better."

A lot better, Watson could have said. The Tigers made just 30 percent of their first half shots and the sophomore only tried one himself. In the second half, he put up seven shots and made five, with four being three-pointers. Throw in a two-for-two performance at the foul line and the guard had 16 points for the game.

In the second half, the Tigers shot 54.5 percent after they became more at ease dealing with Syracuse's zone defense. "Getting inside the zone was big for us in the second half," Watson says. "Putting Marquis (senior forward Marquis Daniels) in the middle of the lane and letting him get penetration made a big difference."

Late in the game, when the Tigers had to score quickly to have a chance to win, that is exactly what Watson did. "I didn't have time to pass much," he says. "I figured I better get the ball up. I was feeling good so I just kept taking shots."

The one-point loss ends Auburn's season one victory shy of the Elite Eight round, which is one step away from the Final Four. Watson says he is eager for the 2003-2004 season to begin when he and fellow sophomores Brandon Robinson, Marco Killingsworth and Lewis Monroe will be the heart of the team along with senior-to-be Kyle Davis.

Lewis Monroe scored 12 points and didn't have a turnover against Syracuse.

"I think we will have a lot of carryover to next season," Watson says. "Everybody stepped it up this year and I expect that will happen again and we will step it up another notch."

Watson says he wasn't ready to call it a season after Auburn's third round NCAA Tournament game in Albany. "It is going to hurt for a while, but we have to look past it and get ready for next year."

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