AUBURN, Ala. (AP) - The Auburn Tigers had no trouble slipping into the NIT quarterfinals for the first time. Rasheem Barrett scored 17 points and the Tigers cruised to a 74-55 victory over Tulsa on Friday night in the second round despite Korvotney Barber’s foul trouble.
DeWayne Reed added 12 points for the Tigers (24-11), who matched the 1999-2000 team for the second-most wins in school history. They did it with quickness, winning scrambles for loose balls and swiping 12 steals.
“We’ve got quickness at a lot of different spots to go after those things,” Auburn coach Jeff Lebo said. “We just play like a bunch of junkyard dogs. That’s what we do. That’s what we look like out there. Nobody gets hardly any recognition. It’s just a bunch of guys that play well together and play hard. It’s somebody different that seems to step up each night.”
Auburn will face the Baylor-Virginia Tech winner in next week’s quarterfinals. The Tigers hadn’t made it this far in five previous NIT trips, winning only two games in all. This is their first postseason appearance since 2003, though a hot finish wasn’t enough to make it into the NCAA tournament.
Tulsa (25-11), the Conference USA runner-up, shot just 34 percent and committed 18 turnovers. The Golden Hurricane struggled against Auburn’s small, quick lineup.
“We talked about it before the game,” Tulsa coach Doug Wojcik said. “We talked about adjusting to the quickness of the game and we didn’t do a great job with that. They turned us over 18 times, and when you shoot six of 12 from the free throw line you’re just not going to win a game on the road.”
The Tigers scored frequently on drives, but also didn’t have much trouble finding decent looks against the nation’s top 3-point defense. Auburn made eight of 21 3-pointers against a team allowing opponents to hit only 27 percent from beyond the arc.
Frankie Sullivan had 10 points. Reed also had five rebounds, five assists and five steals for Auburn after scoring a career-high 23 in the NIT opener against Tennessee-Martin.
“We were just trying to read the post players’ eyes and see where they were going to throw the ball to,” said Quantez Robertson, who had three steals. “Just try to tip the ball when they’re driving to the hole. We were able to do that, get steals here or there, go on the fast break and get points off of that.”
Justin Hurtt scored Tulsa’s first 10 points and finished with 16. Ben Uzoh added 13 points and nine rebounds but also committed seven turnovers.
Tulsa, which won its second NIT title in 2001, had cut an 18-point deficit down to 59-49 on a basket by Uzoh with 4:12 left.
Barrett then made 1-of-2 free throws and the rebound was saved out to Tay Waller for his third 3-pointer to halt the comeback attempt. Reserve Larry Williams hit another 3 in the final seconds to give Auburn its largest margin.
Auburn won easily despite only 13 minutes from leading rebounder Barber. Barber picked up two fouls in the opening four minutes of each half and managed nine points but only two rebounds.
“I told him after the game he didn’t even need to shower,” Lebo said. “He could just go ahead home. He didn’t even sweat.”
The Tigers also contained Tulsa’s 7-foot star Jerome Jordan, who was 2-of-7 for four points against a team with no starter over 6-7. He did have 10 rebounds.
Both teams had been on hot streaks. Tulsa had won eight of its last nine games while Auburn has 11 wins in its past 13 outings.
Now, the Tigers are one win away from getting to the semifinals at Madison Square Garden.
“I told them that we want to go to New York,” Lebo said. “These country boys have never been to New York. It’ll be a nice treat for them, but we’ve got some work to do yet.