Pohlman, who had an 11.4 scoring average into the game, consistently hit clutch baskets as the top-seeded Tigers defeated ninth-seeded Oklahoma State 81-74 Saturday. The 6-foot-2 sophomore guard's previous high was 21 points.
Pohlman had 13 points in a decisive run that put Auburn ahead to stay in the first half and then delivered crucial points when the Cowboys were battling back from a 10-point deficit in the second half.
"You have to feel for Oklahoma State. Neither team deserved to lose," Auburn coach Cliff Ellis said. "It was like a boxing match. They wouldn't wilt, they wouldn't go away. ... I can't wait to get a tape of it. It was a beautiful game."
"I'm just working hard. I'm so thrilled that coach Ellis gave me an opportunity to play at this level. I didn't have many opportunities to play (elsewhere)," Pohlman said. "I just have confidence in myself and I think hard work pays off."
There were four ties and nine lead changes before Auburn (29-3) put together a 17-3 run to grab the lead for good in the first half. The run began after Oklahoma State (23-11) had taken its biggest lead of the game at 18-12 on a 3-pointer by Joe Adkins.
Adrian Peterson, who scored 27, ignited the Cowboys' comeback bid on a 3-pointer with 5:41 remaining. Oklahoma State cut its deficit to 74-72 on a 3-pointer by Adkins with 1:20 left and Pohlman answered with a driving layup.
"I thought we beat ourselveup. Our defense was good and I think they were surprised by our defense," said Peterson, who finished his career as Oklahoma State's third leading scorer with 1,866 points and is also third with 131 steals and in 3-pointers with 228.
After Peterson tipped in a missed shot to make it 76-74 with 34.2 seconds left, Mamadou N'diaye hit a free throw for the Tigers two seconds later. He missed the second attempt but Bryant Smith got in position for the rebound and was fouled by Brian Montonati. Smith made both ends of the one-and-one with 27 seconds remaining to make it 78-74.
"The ball came off the rim. It was mine. I just tried to get the ball and he ran under me and fouled me," Smith said. Then Pohlman helped seal the victory by hitting two more free throws with 13 seconds remaining.
"It came down to execution. We went to half-court defense and began to break them down," said Smith, who contributed 17 points to the victory.
Desmond Mason had 26 for Oklahoma State and Doug Gottlieb, who leads the nation, had 12 assists for the Cowboys.
"He was feeling it and got good lucks. He was hitting his shots every time we weren't on him," Gottlieb said of Pohlman, who was his defensive assignment for much of the game. "When we were on him, he didn't make his shots, but it wasn't enough."
Jay Heard began the go-ahead run for the Tigers, whose winning margin in its victories coming into the game was second-best in the nation at 20.9 points.
Heard's 3-pointer with 10:45 to play was followed by two free throws by Pohlman. He then tied the game for the final time at 21-21 with a jumper and put his team ahead to stay with two jumpers and a 3-pointer.
Auburn's superior speed and athleticism disrupted Oklahoma State's offense in the first half, forcing quick shots and turnovers. The Cowboys shot 39 percent in the half (11-of-28) and nearly matched their average of 13.2 turnovers per game with 12 in the opening period.
It was a different story in the second half. Auburn, which shot 42 percent in the first 20 minutes, hit 18-of-28 attempts in the final half. Oklahoma State shot 62.5 percent (15-of-24) and had only four turnovers in the second half.
The big difference was second-chance points as Auburn recorded a 35-28 advantage and scored 23 points following its 15 offensive rebounds. Oklahoma State, eliminated in the second round of the tournament for the second consecutive year, had 11 offensive rebounds and scored only 11 points on second opportunities.
"The two teams played with a lot of intensity," Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton said. "In the second half we had to play catchup. When we started settling down and didn't turn over the ball in the second half we got into the game."
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