Tigers Advance In NIT With 3-Point Assault

Auburn nailed 14 three-pointers on the way to an National Invitation Tournament basketball victory in the opening round of play. The Tigers will play Tulsa on Friday.

Auburn, Ala.--Quantez Robertson, who had the tough defensive assignment in Auburn's NIT opener, scored a career-high 19 points as the Tigers defeated UT-Martin 87-82 on Wednesday night at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

"He played like a senior is supposed to play in a postseason game," Auburn coach Jeff Lebo said. "Thirty six minutes of chasing a player like Lester, I wouldn't want that."

Lester is Lester Hudson, the nation's second leading scorer, who pumped in 33 points with a combination of long range bombs and acrobatic moves in the lane. He left Auburn fans, players and coaches shaking their heads with several of his moves.

Lebo said he thought Robertson did a good job defensively on a player who hit 12-24 shots, including 6-17 threes and 3-3 free throws.

"He made some absolutely insane plays tonight," Lebo said of Hudson, who set an Ohio Valley Conference single-season scoring record with 880 points. He finished two points shy of the UT-Martin school scoring record and did it in just two years.

"Tez is our best defensive guy," Lebo said of Robertson. "Sometimes you can't do anything else."

Commenting on Hudson, Lebo added, "I felt awfully uncomfortable every time he had it. I felt like he was going to score or make a scoring play...That is about as good of a guard as I have seen in a while."

Auburn improved to 23-11 with the victory and will play a second round NIT game at 7 p.m. on Friday at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum facing Tulsa, a 68-59 winner over Northwestern.

Lebo said he is "just proud of the team the way we played down the stretch" during the season. The coach added he was pleased that his Tigers didn't pout about not making the NCAA field. "On Monday the kids practiced their tails off and didn't say a word about it," Lebo said, adding they did the same thing on Tuesday.

Robertson hit 6-8 field goals, was 2-3 on treys and 5-5 at the foul line for his record scoring night.

DeWayne Reed also scored a career-high for the Tigers with 23 points. He was 5-10 on threes.

DeWayne Reed drives for the Tigers.

As a team the Tigers hit a season high 14 threes on 29 attempts.

Tennessee-Martin coach Bret Campbell said he was impressed with the way the Tigers shot the basketball. "If Auburn can shoot a ball that well from the arc on a consistent basis, I think you guys are going to be taking a trip to New York," he said, referring to the site of the NIT Final Four at Madison Square Garden.

After Auburn attacked the basket early, the Skyhawks set their defense to stop AU's inside game and that gave the Tigers looks from outside the three-point line.

Campbell's star player said he was also impressed with the way the Tigers played. "We came out and played as hard as we could," Hudson said. "Auburn is a good team. We took their punches."

Auburn kept Hudson in check most of the first half as the Tigers built a 19-point lead, but he warmed late in the first half and in the second half got hot. Hudson noted that he didn't panic. "I know I can score in bunches-eight or 10 points in two or three minutes."

He added, "It was real hard to stay focused against the Auburn fans. They were real loud tonight."

Hudson also had praise for Robertson. "Our scouting report is that he is a straight driver," the senior said. "He made a couple of threes and Coach said we had to get out on him."

The Tigers got 10 points apiece from Korvotney Barber and Frankie Sullivan. Lucas Hargrove scored nine and Rasheem Barrett added eight while Tay Waller finished with six points. Barber led the Tigers in rebounds with eight, but Hudson was the game-leader with 12.

Auburn shot 45.6 percent from the field to 45.5 for the Skyhawks. Each team had 37 rebounds.

UT-Martin fouled a lot in the second half while trying to make its comeback. Auburn aided its cause by hitting just 21-35 free throws, something Lebo said was one of the few disappointing things he saw.

However, after the visitors cut the lead to 73-69 with 4:52 left, Hargrove took matters into his own hands after he and Barber missed a pair of free throws and nailed a three to give the Tigers a better margin.

The Tigers then were able to hang on for the win with the help of one of the most spectacular plays of the night. Leading 79-72 after a layup by Reed, Auburn pressed full court and got a steal by Robertson as he took the ball from Hudson. Robertson passed the ball to Reed, who did an alley-oop pass to Robertson for a slam dunk and an 81-72 lead with 53 seconds left that iced the victory.

Quantez Robertson dunks for the Tigers.

Auburn scored early and often in the first half jumping out to a quick 7-2 lead on a pair of free throws by Barber, a three by Barrett and a stuff by Barber.

After the Skyhawks cut the lead to 14-12 the Tigers got a three by Frankie Sullivan that started a 26-7 run.

Auburn built the lead to as many as 19 points at the 4:46 mark on a layup by Robertson, but by halftime the visitors had trimmed the lead to 46-35.

At halftime Robertson was Auburn's leading scorer with 11 points. He was 4-5 shooting from the field, including 2-2 on threes. Sullivan had eight points at the half hitting 3-4 field goals, including both of his threes, while Barber, Reed and Hargrove each scored six first half points.

Korvotney Barber dunks for the Tigers.

The Tigers shot 48.5 percent in the first half to 44.8 for UT-Martin, who was led by Hudson's 12 first half points as he hit 5-11 field goals and 2-8 threes.

At halftime the Tigers were 8-15 on threes to 4-15 for UT-Martin, which was 5-8 at the foul line. Auburn hit 6-7 first half free throws.

Barber played just seven minutes in the first half after getting two fouls called. His backup, Brandon Knox, got two fouls in just four minutes.

Tay Waller played just six minutes in the first half after getting two early fouls and only got off two shots for two points.

The fast-paced first half included 20 turnovers--with 11 on the Skyhawks. Auburn held an 18-17 rebounding edge at the break.

The Tigers saw their lead cut to 56-50 in the second half as the Skyhawks got hot from three-point range. The Tigers got the lead back into double figures at the 14:13 mark as Barber hit one of two free throws. Auburn built the lead back 15 at 68-53 with 11:20 to play, but fastbreak baskets and threes by the Skyhawks closed the gap before the Tigers held on for the victory.

UT-Martin ended its season with a 22-10 record.

Game Notes: The officiating was very unusual, to say the least, with lots of touch fouls being called, something fans at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum are not accustomed to seeing from the SEC crews that normally work AU home games...Auburn junior forward Johnnie Lett is still not recovered enough from his ankle injury to be able to play...Barrett hurt his shoulder in the game, but returned to action and should be ready for round two of the NIT.

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