SAN DIEGO — It took just 65 seconds for Davion Mitchell to hear his name called for Auburn basketball in an NCAA Tournament game.
The freshman point guard from Hinesville, Ga., checked in for the No. 4 seed Tigers at Viejas Arena in San Diego at the 18:55 mark of the first half against No. 13 seed College of Charleston. Mitchell replaced sophomore starter Jared Harper, who picked up two incredibly quick fouls.
“Really, I had to step it up,” Mitchell said. “I knew my team needed me. We had the best point guard down, so I knew I had to step my game up.”
Mitchell’s final line score won’t blow anyone away. He scored 4 points on just 2 for 3 shooting and missed his only 3-point attempt of the game. He had 2 assists, 1 steal and 3 fouls.
However, Auburn couldn’t have pulled off a grind-it-out 62-58 win over the College of Charleston on Friday night without Mitchell.
“He stepped up big with me picking up those quick fouls,” Harper said. “He just kept control of the team, he played great defensively, he played great offensively. When I was out, he held his own. He’s a great player.”
Mitchell didn’t have a single turnover in a game that had a combined 33 of them. His plus/minus was +6, which was third-highest on Auburn’s roster behind starters Desean Murray and Bryce Brown.
The freshman played at least 20 minutes for the first time in almost an entire month. The Tigers were forced to play Mitchell over foul-troubled Harper, who only played 1:31 more in the first half. But his teammates had faith in what he could do on the floor.
“We knew Davion could,” junior forward Malik Dunbar said. “It’s always next man up. I feel like we’ve got a team where the next man can do the same thing the first man could do. We weren’t worried about Day-Day. Day-Day was going to hold us down.”
Defensively, Mitchell was matched up primarily against the College of Charleston’s Joe Chealey and Marquis Pointer. In the first half, those two Cougar point guards combined for two points on 1-of-5 shooting and turned the ball over twice.
Mitchell also forced a turnover from productive guard Grant Riller and turned it into a smooth layup on the other end.
Those were big moments for Mitchell, who looked out of control at times in SEC play. Yet he was a steady hand for the Tigers in their first NCAA Tournament game since 2003.
“Everybody was counting on me because Jared was in foul trouble,” Mitchell said. “Knowing that my teammates counted on me and had trust in me, that had me calmed down for the team. … I was just trying to be a point guard like Jared. Jared doesn’t turn the ball over.”
Mitchell’s night wasn’t perfect, as he missed two late free throws that could’ve sealed the win for Auburn earlier in a nervous final minute.
But in the end, Auburn was able to hang onto its eighth consecutive NCAA Tournament first-round victory — and its youngest player went a long way in keeping the Tigers in San Diego for a couple more days.
“We just made history for Auburn,” Mitchell said. “Everybody’s hype. We get to stay in California. It’s a crazy feeling.”
WATCH: Auburn PG Jared Harper on Mitchell, Tigers’ win