Auburn had no intention of becoming a footnote in NCAA basketball history.
Scott Pohlman and Doc Robinson scored 14 points apiece as the top-seeded Tigers raced to an 80-41 victory Thursday over 16th-seeded Winthrop, which was playing in the NCAA Tournament for the first time.
A No. 1 team has never lost to the 16th seed.
"There's a lot said about a 1-16 game," Auburn coach Cliff Ellis said. "We don't talk about it, but you've got to get through that. You don't want to be the team that loses, and we handled it."
The Tigers (28-3), whose last tourney appearance was in 1988, advanced to Saturday's second round of the South Regional against ninth-seeded Oklahoma State, which beat No. 8 Syracuse 69-61 in the first game at the RCA Dome.
Winthrop (21-8) stayed close early in the game, taking advantage of Auburn's shaky play, but once the Tigers settled down, it was no contest.
"Defensively, we were strong the entire game, but we didn't execute offensively in the first 10 minutes," Ellis said. "After that, we started setting screens, moving the ball, making things happen. Even though some shots didn't fall, our execution was good."
Chris Porter, Auburn's leading scorer and a second-team All-American, was held to nine points, just three in the first half, but his teammates produced repeated big runs to put the Tigers safely in control.
Auburn built the lead to 10 points with under seven minutes left in the first half, stretched it to 19 at halftime and blew the Eagles out in the first eight minutes of the second period.
"Our press just wore them down," Porter said. "It took its toll on them and caused turnovers. ... Some of my shots just wouldn't go down. You just have to play harder, dig deeper."
Two fast-break slam dunks by Porter, 3-ointers by Robinson and Jay Heard and a 3-point play by Bryant Smith helped Auburn to a 56-25 lead. The Tigers' press produced 16 steals, including one by Porter for another fast-break dunk during an 11-0 run that pushed the lead to 67-29 with five minutes to go.
The biggest lead was 40 points -- twice in the final two minutes -- and Winthrop came no closer than 37 points the rest of the way.
Jay Heard and Smith also had nine points each for Auburn. Winthrop, which shot 25.5 percent and committed 24 turnovers for the game, was led by Robbie Waldrop, Jacques Vandescure and Tyson Waterman with six points apiece.
"Give Winthrop credit," Ellis said. "In the early going, they kept in the game."
Winthrop lost to Auburn by 25 points in their only other meeting two years ago. Last year, the Eagles were 7-20 but won the Big South Conference this season under new coach Gregg Marshall. Their chance for an upset in the tourney lasted only for the first few minutes.
"The keys were keeping Auburn off the glass, handling their pressure and making some shots. Unfortunately, we didn't execute that," Marshall said. "But it's not about the destination. It's about the journey."
After three early ties, a 3-pointer by Waterman gave the Eagles a 12-9 lead, but that was their last basket for almost eight minutes. Daymeon Fishback and Robinson hit back-to-back 3-pointers for the Tigers, then two free throws apiece by Fishback and Mamadou N'diaye finished a 14-1 run that put Auburn ahead 23-13.
Winthrop, shooting 28 percent with 15 turnovers in the first half, never recovered.
"Nothing can diminish what our team accomplished," Waterman said. "We were picked last (in the conference) and we proved everyone wrong. We felt we had a good year and did something the university has never done before."
Winthrop's Heson Groves said the Eagles were playing on adrenaline.
"It didn't wear off," he said, "but Auburn is a good team, and by the time the lead reached 20, it broke our backs. After that, it's hard to come back against a good team like Auburn."
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