Tigers Win Intense Opening Night Cat Fight

Auburn, Ala.--In a game that was intense from the first second until the last, Auburn took a hard-fought season-opening basketball victory over College of Charleston, winning 66-62 on Monday night at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

Two big plays by senior center Kyle Davis in the closing seconds won the game for the Tigers. The center's running, one-handed, off-balance tip-in of a missed Nathan Watson three-point shot with 34.5 seconds left put the Tigers ahead 64-62.

Then, with the Cougars trying to hit a shot to win or tie the game, Auburn's all-time blocked shot leader did his thing. It was his third block of the game and it couldn't have come at a better time. Not only did Davis block the shot, he raced to get the ball before it fell out of bounds. He caught it in the air and called a timeout before his feet touched the floor and Auburn had a throw-in with 5.1 seconds to play.

Brandon Robinson got the in-bounds pass and was fouled immediately, With 4.4 seconds on the clock, he hit nothing but net on both free throws as the Tigers won 66-62.

"We shoot 100 free throws after every practice and the coaches told me to go out there with confidence," Robinson said after he finished with a game-high total of 19 points. He also led all rebounders with 10. "They told me to be confident when I was shooting and whatever happens, happens. That is what I did. I went up there with confidence and knocked them down."

Brandon Robinson scores for the Tigers on Monday night. He had a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds.

Auburn was able to win on a night when the Tigers didn't have a good game shooting the ball. Auburn hit just 39 percent in the defensive battle. The Cougars made 41.5 percent of their shots.

"We knew it was going to be an NCAA Tournament game," Auburn coach Cliff Ellis said. "We said whoever gets the game it will help their RPI and it is not a bad loss to College of Charleston. They are a good basketball team, an experienced team. You are always worried about these type of games because without Lewis' (point guard Lewis Monroe) were were forced into some things. I can't say enough about the job the newcomers did, plus Chris Lollar and Nate Watson. I thought their play was good.

"Surprisingly to me, it was a defensive game more than an offensive game," Ellis added. "I thought both of these teams were going to come out and maybe be an 80s games. I know Tom (Coach Tom Herrion) is going to be proud of his defense. I told our team I can't say enough about it. Both teams put their heart and energy into it. What a great game to watch early. You guys and ladies saw a great game--two teams going after each other. I am just proud we got the win. College of Charleston is a good team, a classy team, a program I have a lot of respect for. They are good for college basketball."

The game was close from start to finish. Auburn could never shake the quick and athletic Cougars, who rolled players in and out of the lineup like a hockey team.

Auburn's largest lead in the first half was 12-6, but the Cougars pulled ahead at 24-23 with 4:32 left in the first half. However, Auburn recovered and took a 34-29 advantage into the locker room.

With both teams playing aggressive man-to-man defenses from start to finish, Charleston caught the Tigers and moved ahead 46-45 at the 9:03 mark, but Auburn regained the lead and stretched it to 55-48 on a run featuring six points from newcomer Ronny LeMelle and a monster, two-handed, rebound slam dunk from Robinson. However, the Cougars didn't fold and cut the gap to 59-56 with 4:56 left.

Lollar hit Auburn's first and only three-point shot of the night as the Tigers went just 1-14 on treys. The senior's shot put the Tigers ahead 62-56 at the 4:22 mark, but Auburn didn't score again until Davis made his big tip-in in the final seconds.

"On the last block, I was just thinking don't foul," Davis said. "When I saw the ball going out of bounds I knew I at least had to try to go get it."

Ellis said that he believes Davis is at his best at the end of the game in close contests. The senior didn't dispute that and said, "When it comes down to crunch time, I try to pick up my game."

Marco Killingsworth added 15 points for the Tigers as he hit 5-8 field goals. Quinnel Brown scored 12 points off the bench for the Tigers.

Forward Quinnel Brown hit 5-10 shots and both of his free throws. He added three rebounds in 20 minutes of action.

Stanley Jackson led the Cougars with 17 points. Fellow guard Marcus Johnson was the other College of Charleston player in double figures with 13 points.

Auburn out-rebounded the Cougars 40-28 and surprisingly had just 12 turnovers, one fewer turnover than the quick and aggressive Cougars. Charleston's coach said that was impressive to him. "It was a tremendously hard-played game," Herrion said. "I thought both teams played extremely hard. It is an old adage in coaching and in sports that they just made a few more plays than we did to win the game. I am very proud of my players. We didn't lay down. We played to win. We don't believe in moral victories at College of Charleston. We have great respect for Auburn, but we had a belief we could beat them."

Auburn cashed in on 25 free throw opportunities, hitting 19. The Cougars love to hit the threes and made 8-22.

Lollar had one of his best games at Auburn. He played 25 minutes at point guard and didn't have turnover. He added three points, two assists, two steals and a block. Starting point guard Ian Young had two points, five assists, five turnovers, one block and one steal.

"We knew it was going to be a tough matchup," Davis said. "They came out and played with a lot of heart and we came out and played with a lot of heart and got the victory." Robinson said playing a strong opponent on opening night was better than play a weak team and pounding them. "It is a lot better," the junior forward said. "College of Charleston is a great team. They played defense hard. We played defense hard. We just were happy to come out with the victory."

The Tigers return to action with a 7 p.m. home game on Friday vs. Western Kentucky. The women's team plays Stetson in the first half of the doubleheader at 4:45 p.m.

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