SALT LAKE CITY – With No. 5 seed Auburn leading 78-76 in the waning seconds, NM State's AJ Harris had an open layup that would have tied the game but instead dished outside to Terrell Brown for a three-pointer. Brown was fouled and went to the free throw line where he missed the first, made the second and missed the third, with the ball bouncing out of bounds on the rebound. Possession went to the Aggies (30-5), but Trevelin Queen missed a corner three just before the buzzer and the Tigers (27-9) held on for a 78-77 victory in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Salt Lake City Thursday.
NM State jumped out to a 14-8 lead in the first half, but Auburn used a 13-0 run and held the Aggies scoreless for 6:43 before NM State finally converted a three-point play with 4:24 left in the half to make it a 28-22 game. The Aggies closed the half on a 7-2 run and went into the locker room down by three, 32-29.
In the second half, Auburn quickly scored 10 straight to build its lead to 12, 45-33, with 17:18 on the clock. The Tigers later led by 13 with 7:06 remaining when the Aggies mounted a comeback, cutting it to five with 2:38 left in the game on a Queen three-pointer, a Johnny McCants dunk and a pair of Ivan Aurrecoechea free throws.
After the Tigers pushed it back to eight, 73-65, NM State went on a 7-0 run to make it a one-point game and had the chance for the win.
The Aggies were led by McCants with 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting to go along with seven rebounds. Queen added 14 points, including four three-pointers, six assists and five boards. Aurrecoechea was just shy of a double-double, finishing with 13 points and nine boards. Brown tallied 12 points.
NM State shot 49 percent from the floor, 28 percent from downtown and 74 percent from the free throw line. The Aggies out-rebounded Auburn 39-24, but committed 16 turnovers.