Syracuse will play No. 19 Auburn in the Battle 4 Atlantis final

Paradise Island, Bahamas – Jabari Smith looked comfortable finishing 19th at Auburn, while Walker Kessler kept working on the glass and protecting the rim from an opponent who reached the second weekend of last season’s NCAA Tournament.

That’s a good, early sign for Bruce Pearl’s young frontman.

Smith had 14 points and Kessler had his second double-double in a row at Battle 4 Atlantis, which helped the Tigers regroup from a double overtime loss, beating Loyola Chicago 62-53 in Thursday’s consolation round.

“Jabari, I think, showed that he is the best player here,” Pearl said. “Walker showed that he is the best rim protector here. And I thought our kids really got up. ”

Auburn advanced to Friday’s battle for fifth place and must face Syracuse. The game begins at 4:30 p.m. The Orange beat Arizona State, 92-84, Thursday night.

Smith, a 6-foot-10 striker, made 7 of 9 shots for the match. It included some back-to-the-basket work and turning around to shoot over a defender, something the top recruit and NBA prospect showed agility in doing. He made a couple of key curves in the final minutes: a turn in the field over a defender close to the 5-minute mark and then a turn shot over Lucas Williamson to a 58-51 lead with 2:27 left.

Smith had 19 of his 22 points after the break in the 115-109 double-overtime loss to No. 22 UConn in Wednesday’s first round.

“I just want to say it gets me ready for more big fights,” Smith said. “Every game in the SEC gets tough, it gets challenging. So just playing against stronger competition, playing against tougher competition shows where we are and shows how we are together. And I enjoy it.”

Kessler added 13 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks to the Tigers (4-1), who held the Ramblers to just two field goals in 11 minutes in the second half. That helped the Tigers stretch to a 10-point margin heading into the final minutes of a cold-blooded second half for the Ramblers (4-2).

Marquise Kennedy scored 13 points to lead the Ramblers (4-2), who shot 62% in the first half. But Loyola Chicago’s offense had a hard time putting curves together to build a certain rhythm, and outside shots after the break were magnified as Auburn began to increase its late margin.

Loyola Chicago shot only 8 to 26 (31%) after the break.

“We just have to keep shooting the ball confidently,” Kennedy said. “A few in and out, all good shots. We just have to keep shooting and eventually they start falling. … The second half fell off a bit. But in the end, we have to keep shooting confidently. ”

Auburn came after a wild 115-109 loss to No. 22 UConn in Wednesday’s first round. It had to be made ready less than 24 hours later for this one against a team that reached the NCAA Sweet 16 last year. But Auburn played from the front for the last 16 minutes and remained in control of the first meeting ever between the schools.

Loyola Chicago lost its first round match to Michigan State on an alley-oop dunk at the last second. They responded with a strong offensive first half against Auburn, but did not connect with a 3 in the second half until Kennedy with 2:49 left when they were down by eight.

Loyola Chicago made 6 of 13 3-pointers in the first half, three of which came from Braden Norris. But those shots didn’t fall after the break, with the Ramblers missing their first seven attempts and going 1 for 10.

“I thought we were taking some bad guys,” first-year coach Drew Valentine said. “I thought we helped them. Clearly, they are an extremely athletic team that does a great job of pushing the ball and speeding you up.

“So you have to give them the credit for getting us to take some rushed, and get us to take some deep and some early. But in the first half, I liked the 3s we got.”

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