Jacksonville State’s season comes to a close, fall to Auburn in first round of NCAA Tournament

Photo courtesy of Thomas Ashworth

Thomas Ashworth, Sports Editor

Jacksonville State’s season full of firsts, lasts and everything in between came to a close in Bon Secours Wellness Arena, as the 15th seeded Gamecocks fell to the second-seeded Auburn Tigers in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, 80-61.

Jacksonville State will now head home as Auburn takes on the winner of Miami vs Southern California.

“We completed, we left it all on the floor, and we’re proud,” Jalen Finch said. “We stayed together.”

Jalen Gibbs had a game-leading 20 points in the matchup, with Jalen Finch posting 17 points of his own. Brandon Huffman led the team with seven rebounds.

Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler both posted a double-double for the Tigers, as Smith finished with 20 points and 17 rebounds and Kessler with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

“We did a good job of taking care of the basketball, but we took some really tough shots,” Ray Harper said. “Until that 3:47 at the end of the half, we were right where we wanted to be.”

Jacksonville State began the game four-for-six on three pointers, beginning the game with a 14-11 lead. After Jacksonville State pushed to a 24-22 lead, a three-pointer from Jaylynn Williams gave Auburn the lead that they never lost hold of.

After Jalen Gibbs sank three free throws for the Gamecocks, Jacksonville State closed out the first half with a 3:47 scoring drought, going 1-11 from the field on their last 11 attempts and 0-6 to close out the half.

While Jacksonville State began to trim Auburn’s lead and got it within 14 points, the Tigers closed out the game firing on all cylinders.

“They believed and we believed we could win this basketball game. Because of the way Auburn played, they’re advancing,” Harper said. “It wasn’t because of a lack of effort.”

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