By DAVID SOLOMON, Associated Press
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Walter Kessler scored 19 points, grabbed nine rebounds and blocked four shots, and Wendell Green Jr. added 15 points and eight assists to help No. 13 Auburn overcome a 13-point deficit to beat Saint Louis 74-70 Saturday night.
K.D. Johnson hit a jump shot with nine seconds remaining to put Auburn (10-1) up 72-70, and Billikens forward Frances Okoro missed a pair of free throws with two seconds left.
“It was important to get tested … and I was very proud of those guys,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said after his team’s second true road game.
Terrence Hargrove Jr. led Saint Louis (8-4) with 17 points and Yuri Collins added 13 points, a career-high 12 rebounds and eight assists.
“Just too many mistakes under three minutes, and they made us pay for every single one of them,” Saint Louis coach Travis Ford said after his team’s third loss in four games. “To me, turnover, missed free throws under four minutes is when you’ve got to close it out, and that’s kind of been the problem.”
Saint Louis was up 60-47 with 9:13 remaining due to a 9-0 run during which Pearl was called for a technical foul. Auburn countered by outscoring Saint Louis 27-10 for the remainder of the contest for its seventh straight win.
“We really just came together,” Kessler said. “The coaching staff did a great job calming us down. We did a great job of calming ourselves down and understood that basketball is a game of runs and we couldn’t get rattled.”
Lior Berman hit a 3 with 2:14 remaining to give Auburn its first lead since 13:26 remaining in the first half.
Auburn held a 35-27 halftime lead after outscoring Saint Louis 26-13 over the final 10:42 of the first half. The Billikens didn’t score in the final 4:04. Saint Louis answered with a 9-0 run of its own in the first 4:08 of the second half.
Auburn: Currently owns the second-longest winning streak among SEC teams — behind only No. 19 LSU, which defeated Louisiana Tech 66-57 Saturday night.
Saint Louis: Despite not having a player taller than 6-foot-9, the Billikens outrebounded the Tigers 46-27 and grabbed 19 offensive rebounds.
Pearl was back on the bench after serving a two-game suspension as part of the NCAA’s ruling against Auburn for unethical conduct involving a former associated head coach. … Forward Jaylin Williams returned after missing Tuesday night’s contest with turf toe.
Auburn: Hosts Murray State on Wednesday.
Saint Louis: Faces Drake on Wednesday in Las Vegas.
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