For a while, it seemed as if Jacksonville State had just the formula to upset Auburn. With a flurry of 3-pointers, the Gamecocks made 5-of-7 to start the game in the first 9 minutes.

But Auburn roared back, and delivered an onslaught of offense that coincided with a drought by Jacksonville State as the Tigers pulled away. No. 2-seed Auburn prevailed 80-61 over 15-seed Jacksonville State on Friday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Auburn led by 12 at halftime, and maintained a double-digit lead the entire second half.

Auburn bounced back to secure the biggest lead of the game, up 6 points, with 2:30 remaining in the first half thanks to an 11-0 run. It also came when Auburn flipped a switch on its lock-down defense and held the Gamecocks in check, especially beyond the arc. The Gamecocks finished the first half 1-for-12 from the field.

Auburn’s offense was also especially efficient, as the Tigers had 13 assists on 15 field goals in the first half alone.

Auburn continued its hot play early in the second half, and extended it to a 23-2 run over 7 minutes, and that also came during a scoring drought of 9:17 from the floor for the Gamecocks.

Walker Kessler in the first half had 9 points, 6 rebounds, 4 blocks, and missed several minutes from the 16:22 mark of the second half when he took a tumble on his right shoulder/elbow and suffered a bloody gash.

Kessler finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds and 9 blocks, one block short of his third triple double of the season. Jabari Smith also contributed a double double with 20 points, 14 rebounds, and a thunderous tomahawk dunk in the final minute.