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Auburn guard Wendell Green Jr. (1) drives to the hoop against South Carolina guard Devin Carter, right, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)

Wendell Green Jr. scored a season-high 22 points and No. 9 Auburn beat South Carolina 81-66 for its 10th straight win Tuesday night.

The Tigers (13-1, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) were up by 21 points in the second half before the Gamecocks cut it to 63-55 with about seven minutes left. But Green stepped forward again with two foul shots and 7-foot-1 Walker Kessler jammed home a basket as Auburn opened 2-0 in the league for the first time in four years.

Auburn made the Top 10 for the first time this season — and fourth time in the past five seasons — and had little trouble justifying their lofty spot most of the way against the Gamecocks.

Green was practically unstoppable in the first 20 minutes, the 5-foot-11 sophomore going for 14 points as he made six of 10 shots and grabbed five rebounds. Green has six points in a 17-5 run by the Tigers to take control.

Green had a three-point play to increase the margin to 12 points. When he blew by the defense for an uncontested layup two minutes later, a frustrated South Carolina coach Frank Martin called time out.

Nothing the Gamecocks did stopped Green, who moments later connected on a long, floating 3-pointer several feet behind the line to go up 44-27.

 

South Carolina guard Erik Stevenson, left, is defended by Auburn forward Jabari Smith, right, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)South Carolina head coach Frank Martin communicates with players during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Auburn Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)

Kessler, the North Carolina transfer, was coming off a triple-double (16 points, 10 rebounds, 11 blocks) in Auburn’s win over LSU last time out.

And Kessler was a presence in this one, his length keeping South Carolina from getting close the basket as Auburn outscored the Gamecocks 24-8 on points in the paint.

Kessler wasn’t too far off a second straight triple double, finishing with 12 points, 10 boards and four of Auburn’s six blocked shots.

The Tigers hadn’t won this many in a row since notching 12 straight victories late in the 2018-2019 season. That streak came to an end in the Final Four, a 63-62 semifinal loss to Virginia.

Erik Stevenson tied his season high with 25 points for South Carolina.

THE BIG PICTURE

Auburn: The Tigers are playing like the class of the SEC right now, following up a win over ranked LSU with a dominant showing for their fourth straight win over South Carolina. Auburn shot 53 percent (29 of 55), its best showing of the season.

South Carolina: The Gamecocks, with nine new faces on the roster, have already zoomed past last year’s win total in a disastrous 6-15 season. But the team is not ready to match up with the deeper, more talented teams in the SEC.

Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl communicates with players during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against South Carolina Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)Auburn guard K.D. Johnson (0) drives to the hoop against South Carolina forward AJ Wilson (12) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)

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