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Auburn basketball beats South Carolina again to win SEC Tournament

NASHVILLE — Chad Baker-Mazara stood up to defend himself.

After being pushed to the ground by Caroline from the south Guard Zachary Davis, the former star player at Northwest Florida State, took a few steps and exchanged a few brief words with Davis before his teammates and officials were able to create space between the two.

One of Auburn basketball Vocal leader Baker-Mazara, who wears his emotions on his sleeve, turned around and saw teammate Tre Donaldson telling him to relax. Baker-Mazara raised his hand and pointed to his head as if telling his point guard he had pulled himself together.

The Tigers (25-7) showed composure in their SEC tournament victory over the Gamecocks (26-7) at Bridgestone Arena on Friday, bludgeoning South Carolina again and again in the paint on the way to an 86-55 victory. This is Auburn's first victory in the conference tournament since winning the championship against Tennessee in 2019.

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The Tigers and Gamecocks had played once before, with the former beating the latter by 40 points at Neville Arena on Valentine's Day. Johni Broome and Jaylin Williams – Auburn's All-SEC frontcourt – sank nine of their 12 3-point attempts in that previous win.

The shots weren't as effective Friday, but the Tigers still won handily. It was Auburn's 25th double-digit win of the season, just shy of tying the 1998-99 Tigers for the most wins in program history.

Tigers pound Gamecocks in the paint

South Carolina had 26 points in the first half. Auburn had 24 points in the paint during that same stretch.

The Tigers were constantly taking the ball close and it always worked. Broome scored a game-high 18 points, with much of that production coming either from the rim or the foul line.

An impressive defensive performance

Auburn held South Carolina to a 28.1% shooting mark, which includes a 25% rate from deep. Fifth-year forward BJ Mack and Davis were the only two Gamecocks with more than 10 points; Mack finished with a team-high 14 on 25% shooting.

And after?

The Tigers will face Mississippi State in the SEC tournament semifinals on Saturday (noon CT, ESPN). The two teams have met twice this season, with Auburn winning in Plains and the Bulldogs winning in Starkville.

Richard Silva is the Auburn sports editor for the Montgomery Advertiser. He can be reached by email at rsilva@gannett.com or on X, formerly known as Twitter, @rich_silva18.

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