From The Trussville Tribune staff reports
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Goodbye Sweet 16, hello Elite 8!
The Auburn Tigers defeated the No. 1 seed Tar Heels by a score of 97-8 Friday and will advance to the Midwest Regional final this Sunday.
According to Auburn athletics, the Tigers began the second half on an 8-0 run, thanks to 3-pointers from Jared Harper and Bryce Brown and a Malik Dunbar jumper to take a 49-39 lead.
Danjel Purifoy hit three 3-pointers in 1:11 to put Auburn ahead 73-57. Anfernee McLemore banked in a 3-pointer to give Auburn its largest lead, 76-57 with 9:19 remaining.
Chuma Okeke dominated with 20 points and 11 rebounds before leaving with an injury with 8:08 to play.
Auburn athletics said that North Carolina cut the deficit to 11 before Jared Harper hit a pair of free throws and Bryce Brown hit a 3-pointer, then made a steal and slam to make it 90-72.
Even Kentucky fans joined in the celebration, chanting “S-E-C.” The Tigers will play the winner of Friday’s late game between the Wildcats and Houston.
The Tigers placed six players in double figures, with Malik Dunbar scoring 13, Brown and Purifoy each adding 12, and Samir Doughty and J’Von McCormick each chipping in 10.
Auburn led 41-39 after a fast-paced first half that lived up to its track meet billing.
With Harper on the bench with two fouls, McCormick again sparked the Tigers off the bench, just as he did in the SEC Tournament championship game and the first round of the NCAA Tournament against New Mexico State.
The quickest player on the court, McCormick drove coast-to-coast with 3 seconds left as the Tigers closed the half on a 6-0 run.
Okeke scored a game-high 12 points and grabbed a game-high seven rebounds in the half, helping Auburn match the Tar Heels 21-21 on the boards.