Jared Harper made a clutch 3-pointer with 1:17 to go — his only basket of the game — and Auburn held off No. 13 seed College of Charleston 62-58 in a Midwest Region thriller to avoid becoming the second No. 4 seed upset at Viejas Arena on Friday.
Auburn, playing under the cloud of a federal investigation into corruption in college basketball, overcame a horrible shooting performance to win in its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2003. But it survived in part because Charleston committed 21 turnovers.
Mustapha Heron scored 16 points for Auburn (26-7), which shot only 35.6 percent overall (21 of 59) and just 20.8 percent from 3-point range (5 of 24).
The biggest shot to go down for the Tigers was Harper's deep 3 that gave them a 59-56 lead. He finished 1 of 7, including 1 of 4 from behind the arc.
The Cougars (26-8) pulled to 61-58 when Grant Riller made one of two free throws with 20.4 seconds left.
Auburn's Davion Mitchell missed two free throws with 14 seconds to go, giving Charleston a chance. Riller launched a 3 with four seconds left that fell short. He appeared to get fouled but nothing was called.
Harper then made one of two free throws with 3.2 seconds left to seal it.
Earlier on Friday in the East Region bracket at Viejas, No. 4 seed Wichita State was beaten 81-75 by No. 13 Marshall. And on Thursday night, No. 4 seed Arizona was routed 89-68 by 13th-seeded Buffalo in the South Region bracket at Boise, Idaho.
Desean Murray scored 11 for Auburn, and Bryce Brown had 10.
Jarrell Brantley scored a game-high 24 points for Charleston, and Riller added 16.
Auburn assistant coach Chuck Person was indicted as part of a federal investigation that cost two of Auburn's best players their eligibility. Person allegedly accepted bribes to steer players to a financial adviser once they turned pro and allegedly funneled money to the families of Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy. Neither played this season.
Head coach Bruce Pearl has yet to submit to a formal interview with a law firm conducting an internal review of his program. That will presumably come after the season. At that time, President Steven Leath and new athletic director Allen Greene could possibly determine his fate.
Charleston scored the last seven points of the first half, including a 3-pointer by Joe Chealey, to pull into a 25-all tie.
Auburn shot 9 of 32 from the field in the first half for 28.1 percent, and missed all 13 3-pointers.
Auburn advances to the round of 32 on Sunday and will play the winner of No. 12 seed New Mexico State vs. No. 5 seed Clemson.