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NCAA Tournament Recap (Ohio St-Auburn)

Posted: Fri March 19, 1999 at 1:52 a.m EST

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (Ticker) -- The 1990s were anything but kind to top seeds in the South and Southeast Regions of the NCAA Tournament.

The backcourt combination of Scoonie Penn and Michael Redd combined for 48 points as fourth-seeded Ohio State overcame foul trouble to upset Auburn, 72-64, in the regional semifinals.

The loss by the Tigers (29-4) completed a decade of misery for top seeds in the South. Only one team -- Kentucky in 1993 -- survived the region as a to reach the Final Four. Duke was eliminated in last year's regional final, and Auburn joined Michigan State (1990), Connecticut (1996) and Kansas (1997) as top seeds who lost in the regional semifinals.

The Buckeyes (26-8), who were 8-22 in coach Jim O'Brien's first season, are one step away from their first Final Four appearance since 1968 and ninth overall. Ohio State will play third seed St. John's on Saturday for a spot in the Final Four at St. Petersburg, Florida.

"They've surprised me all season," said O'Brien. "When I ask myself if they can do more, they actually do more and surprise me. It was a good win under the circumstances with all those fouls."

Chris Porter scored 15 points and Doc Robinson added 14 for Auburn, which was denied a spot in the round of eight for the first time since 1986. The Tigers had only one basket the final three minutes, a meaningless 3-pointer by Robinson in the closing seconds.

"This really hurts," admitted Robinson. "We will fight through it and build towards next season."

Neither team had a lead bigger than five points in the first half, with Ohio State holding a 31-26 lead at intermission on a late 3-pointer by Redd. As they have all season, the Tigers were relentless on the boards and had nine more than Ohio State after 20 minutes. Auburn, though, was shooting just 28 percent (8-of-29) from the field and also missed 5-of-11 foul shots.

The Buckeyes showed a lot of resiliency early in the second half as center Ken Johnson picked up his fourth foul with 14:55 to play, Penn getting his fourth 92 seconds later and Jason Singleton getting at the 12:26 mark.

The Tigers threatened to pull away as Robinson had a pair of baskets around a 3-pointer by Daymeon Fishback for a 52-46 lead with 10:17 left. Ohio State called a 20-second timeout, and O'Brien put Penn back in the game. The move paid immediate dividends as Penn drained a 3-pointer and a runner on the left baseline to pull the Tigers within one.

"When Scoonie was on the bench, I was trying to buy as much time as I could," said O'Brien. "We got behind and I didn't want to lose the game with our best player on the bench. Putting him back in there wasn't that big a deal. He did make a three when he got in there and had an impact on the game."

"He told me to play smart and don't foul," said Penn. "I've been in that situation before and I just had to go out and play with a lot of confidence."

A lay-in by Singleton off a great feed from Redd pushed Ohio State ahead 55-54 with 5:45 to go. The lead then swung back and forth, with Robinson hitting a 14-footer in the lane to give the Tigers a 58-57 edge with 4:16 to go.

Penn came back with two free throws, and Redd had a back-door lay-in before Auburn's Scott Pohlman knotted the game, 61-61, on a 3-pointer with 3:02 left. Freshman Brian Brown gave the Buckeyes the lead for good by making the second of two free throws 20 seconds later.

Pohlman missed an open 3-pointer, and Redd sank two foul shots with 1:57 remaining. After a miss by Auburn, Penn pushed the lead to 66-61 by making a 10-footer with 70 seconds to play. Singleton then came up with the play of the game, blocking a 3-point attempt by Bryant Smith and racing downcourt before slipping a behind-the-back pass to Brown, who threw down a dunk to give Ohio State a 68-61 lead with one minute remaining.

"We knew coming into this game that Ohio State was a very good team," said Tigers coach Cliff Ellis. "Scoonie Penn has really helped this team turn around. He hit some big shots tonight. They won eight games last year, and what did they do this year? He makes plays. He's not a good guard, he's a great guard."

Penn was 9-of-16 from the field and Redd was 9-of-19 as the Buckeyes shot 44 percent (27-of-62) from the field and overcame 11 missed free throws in the final 20 minutes. Brown, who has made his only three starts in the NCAA Tournament, contributed nine points, six rebounds and four assists.

Auburn, which forced 20.3 turnovers per game heading into this contest, was able to get only nine and scored only six points off them. The Tigers shot just 39 percent (23-of-59) and were outscored in the paint, 36-22.

© 2000 Sportsticker Enterprises, LP

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