Scores

Final OT

(10) Auburn 65

(21-11, 8-8 SEC)

(7) Saint Joseph's 63

(23-7, 12-4 A 10)

12:25 PM ET, March 21, 2003

Tampa Bay Times Forum, Tampa, Florida

1 2 OT T
#10AUB 32 25 865
#7JOES 19 38 663

Auburn overcomes Nelson, St. Joseph's in OT

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Marquis Daniels refused to let Auburn lose.

Proving his team does belong in the NCAA Tournament, Daniels scored five of his 25 points in overtime, and the Tigers withstood a brilliant second-half by Saint Joseph's star Jameer Nelson to hold on for a 65-63 first-round victory in the East Regional on Friday.

Dick Vitale: I guess the Auburn Tigers were out to prove they belonged in the tourney. Wow! Who were those announcers who said they didn't deserve to dance? Was that Dickie V? Wow! My argument was based on their 8-8 conference record and a Cupcake City preconference schedule -- and the Tigers finished by winning only five of their last 14 games. So, as far as getting in, I would still make the case for, say, Boston College over Auburn. But now that's all in the past. More

"I know he wanted to win. I wanted to win,'' Daniels said after answering every big basket Nelson made down the stretch with his own. "It was a matter of stepping up and taking good shots. His shots were going. Mine were as well.''

Nelson, who made 9 of 18 shots and was 7-for-8 from the foul line, finished with 32 points and nine rebounds. He scored 13 of his team's last 15 points in regulation, including two free throws with a half-second left to tie it at 57.

The six-foot junior guard also did all of the Hawks' scoring in overtime.

"People have looked out of the corner of their eye whenever I say he's the best point guard in America,'' Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli said. "You can have all the guys that the TV guys talk about. This kid is as good as any of them, if not better than all of them.''

Critics of Auburn's selection for the tournament cited the Tigers' weak early season schedule and their 4-8 record against eight teams that made it to the NCAAs. Coach Cliff Ellis countered with the argument that not only is the Southeastern Conference one of the nation's toughest leagues, but the Tigers finished second in their division.

"We proved our point. We've done it all year,'' Ellis said. "We beat a good team. That's enough of that.''

A pair of 3-pointers by Nelson helped Saint Joseph's take a 63-59 lead in overtime, but the Hawks couldn't finish the job.

Auburn pulled within two on Daniels' dunk, and the Tigers took the lead for good on the senior forward's three-point play with 45.2 seconds remaining in the extra period. Nelson missed his last two shots and St. Joseph's turned the ball over on an offensive foul with 19 seconds left.

The Hawks then saw their last chance for victory fail when Pat Carroll's 3-point attempt failed to hit the rim with less than a second remaining. Carroll, who was scoreless on 0-for-5 shooting after averaging nearly 12 per game during the regular season, was guarded much of the day by Daniels.

"I've seen him play better offense, but this was the best defense I've seen,'' Ellis said of the 6-foot-6 Daniels. "He shut Carroll down.''

Auburn (21-11), the No. 10 seed, advanced to the second round against either No. 2 Wake Forest or No. 15 East Tennessee State. Marco Killingsworth had 13 points and Derrick Bird added 10, including a free throw that made it 65-63 with 8.5 seconds left.

Seventh-seeded St. Joseph's (23-7) rallied from a 15-point deficit after spending the first half looking like the team that shouldn't have been invited to the tournament. Nelson scored eight during an 18-3 run the Hawks used to get back in the game.

The 6-foot junior guard was a one-man show in the final seven minutes of regulation. He made six straight free throws down the stretch, and his 15-foot jumper with 18.5 seconds left put the Hawks ahead 55-54 -- their first lead since 1-0.

Daniels answered with a clutch 3-pointer for a 57-55 Auburn lead, but Nelson wasn't finished.

St. Joseph's inbounded the ball with 6 seconds left in regulation. Nelson dribbled the length of the floor and was fouled by Kyle Davis when he went up for a layup. After getting a friendly bounce on his first free throw, Nelson swished the second to send the game into overtime.

"I didn't feel nervous at all,'' Nelson said. "I guess I was put in that situation for a reason, and I knocked them down.''

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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DATEGAMELINKS
Saint Joseph's leads 14-2
» Mar 21, 2003 AUB 65, @JOES 63Recap