Work in Sports
Porter-less Tigers edge South Carolina in OT
Posted: Sunday March 12, 2000 10:14 AM
ATLANTA (AP) -- For Auburn, it has more to do with pride than Chris Porter.
The Tigers were left for dead after their star forward was suspended for taking $2,500 from a sports agent. They lost all three regular season games Porter missed and four in a row while blowing any shot at repeating as Southeastern Conference champions.
With the SEC title the only thing left to play for, Auburn got inspired play Saturday from its three seniors and flu-ridden Scott Pohlman, beating South Carolina 77-72 in overtime to advance to the conference tournament final.
"We really have a lot more to play for than Chris Porter," forward Daymeon Fishback said. "We had a lot of expectations on us that we didn't fulfill, we felt we haven't played the best we can at all this season and we had some things that we still wanted to do."
Before Porter was suspended Feb. 27, Auburn was 9-2 in the SEC and in a four-way tie for the regular-season lead. After losing four straight, the preseason favorites were three games out of the race.
Auburn (23-8) reached the final for the first time since 1985, when they become the only team in the modern era to win the tournament with four victories in four days -- something South Carolina (15-17) was trying to do.
The Tigers, who learned before Friday's semifinal win over No. 11 Florida that the NCAA would not allow Porter to play again, got 15 points from Pohlman, including three free throws in the final 41 seconds to clinch it.
Pohlman, who missed practice all week because of a sinus infection and an infected heel, didn't start for the second straight game. But he played 32 minutes and went 6-for-7 at the free-throw line.
The Tigers also got inspired efforts from their senior trio of N'diaye, Fishback and Doc Robinson.
N'diaye scored Auburn's first five points in overtime and came up with two huge blocks in regulation. He finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks. Robinson scored 14 points, Fishback added 12 and the two combined to hit six of Auburn's nine 3-pointers.
After the final buzzer, the three met near the South Carolina basket and embraced. Fishback, who has a cyst on his knee that has bothered him so much he considered having season-ending surgery until the Tigers lost Porter, said it was an emotional moment.
"When we found out about Chris we said we would play focused and we would play for him and just do the best we can to go after it," Fishback said. "It's been a rollercoaster, but we are moving on."
The Gamecocks -- who knocked off No. 8 Tennessee in the quarterfinals -- came up short when they failed to score in the final two minutes of overtime.
Antonio Grant led South Carolina with 16 points. Marius Petravicious had 11, and Tony Kitchings and Herbert Lee Davis scored 10 each.
Chuck Eidson, the Gamecock's second leading scorer at 9.2 points a game, was held scoreless on 0-for-4 shooting. He also missed a wide open 3-point attempt with 1:15 to play in regulation. He got the rebound though, but turned it over and Auburn converted it with an N'diaye dunk that put Auburn up 67-66 with 1:12 to play.
"Chuck took only four shots, the last time we played Auburn he scored 24, so that's a big difference," said South Carolina coach Eddie Fogler. "We just didn't play well enough offensively to win this game."
Fishback added a free throw with 19 seconds to play that made it 68-66, but South Carolina tied it on Grant's 10-foot jumper with 5.5 seconds to play. Auburn missed a chance to win it in regulation when Fishback's 15-foot jumper went in and out at the buzzer.
The Gamecocks took a 70-68 lead in overtime on Kitchings' jumper, but N'diaye made a free throw, scored on a sky hook and gave Auburn the lead for good on a layup that made it 73-72 with 2:11 to play.
"He's so darn tall it's hard to get him off the boards or
defend him," Fogler said.