Auburn guard KT Harrell didn't just want the ball in his hands when it mattered Wednesday night. He also wanted to be in position to make a big defensive stop.
Harrell scored 20 points but also took two charges in the final minutes that helped the Tigers beat Oregon State 71-69 in the consolation game of the MGM Grand Main Event.
"My coaches believe in me to make plays," Harrell said. "As a senior and a leader, I took it upon myself to try and take over the game, not only offensively but defensively. Those two charges really got us back in the game."
Down 59-56, Auburn went on a 13-4 run during a six-minute stretch to move in front 69-63. Harrell played a key role in the comeback with his shooting, making a three-pointer and a short jumper with 2:47 left to break a 61-61 tie.
The Tigers picked up their defensive intensity after losing to Tulsa in Monday's opening-round game. Their also improved their shooting, making 52 percent in the game and 7 of 17 from three-point range. Against Tulsa, they missed on 20 of 22 from long distance.
"When we played hyped, when we play with a kind of frenzied intensity, we have a chance to be pretty good," coach Bruce Pearl said. "When we don't, we're pretty darn average."
Auburn still needed to hold off Oregon State in the closing minutes. The Beavers were within three points, 66-63, but Victor Robbins missed a layup on a fast break and Langston Morris-Walker was called for a charge after converting a floater in the lane.
"We feel like we should've pulled this one out," Beavers coach Wayne Tinkle said. "We shot ourselves in the foot with some turnovers and some breakdowns defensively. I love the fact we battled, but we're disappointed we didn't pull this one out."
Gary Payton II led Oregon State with a season-high 20 points and 12 rebounds.
For Auburn, K.C. Ross-Miller, Tahj Shamsid-Deen and Malcolm Canada had 11 apiece.
Auburn: Senior guard K.T. Harrell rebounded after a tough night in Monday's loss to Tulsa. After scoring 20 or more points in each of the Tigers' first three games, he was held to two against Tulsa.
Oregon State: The Beavers possess very little depth - in fact, six of their 16 players are walk-ons and two made the team after an open tryout - but they have high expectations for the future. Three recruits from their 2015 class attended the game: Derrick Bruce, Stephen Thompson and Tres Tinkle. The class was rated in the top 20 nationally by two websites, the highest in Oregon State history.
After totaling double figures in scoring and rebounding in each of Auburn's first four games, forward Cinmeon Bowers finished with 10 points and 8 rebounds. The score was tied 12 times, and there were nine lead changes. Auburn's bench scored just three points against Tulsa but bounced back with 17 against the Beavers.
Harrell said the Tigers were a vastly different team from the one that lost to Tulsa on Monday. A lot of it had to do with the team's intensity. "Our intensity wasn't high Monday night," he said. "We didn't play together and we shot the ball terribly, but tonight we bounced back and played a lot harder."
Auburn visits Texas Tech on Wednesday.
Oregon State hosts Mississippi Valley State on Wednesday.