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Auburn overcomes Nelson, St. Joseph's in OT

3/21/2003

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.

"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.''