A lot happened yesterday.
Auburn’s 2018-19 basketball team cemented itself as the greatest team in school history.
30 wins. SEC Tournament Championship. Final Four. It doesn’t get much better than that, yet there’s a high possibility that it actually could! Auburn will take on Virginia, the top seed out of the South Region, at 5:09 pm CST this coming Saturday for a spot in Monday night’s national championship game.
It’s unprecedented. Completely unexpected, but completely on-brand for what we’ve come to know and love about Auburn athletics in the last decade or so.
Think about the heart-pounding nature of Auburn football. We may not win all the games, and we’re going to lose some really difficult contests, but we’re going to have the most exciting games around. Now, Auburn basketball’s decided to adopt that philosophy as well.
Honestly, it reminds me of the run to the 2013 national championship. After the loss to LSU, nobody really gave us a chance, but then we reeled off wins over ranked teams nearly ever week, culminating in the Kick Six and SEC Championship Game. Yes, we eventually lost to Florida State in Pasadena, but the parallels are there. This team is hot at the right time, and mowing not only through paltry ranked teams, but the most storied programs in college basketball.
Yesterday was a cathartic moment with the 77-71 overtime win against Kentucky. This is a team that came into Auburn Arena and beat the Tigers, with Jared Harper’s game-winning layup falling off the rim. Then they thrashed us in Lexington. Personally, there’s no way that you could watch that game and think that Auburn wouldn’t lose again. We looked lost, inept, and uncaring.
It turned around, and now twelve wins later, Auburn is in a position to play for a title. The big title. It’s nuts.
Let’s go back to yesterday to see exactly how things unfolded. First, it started with some prime motivation from the ever-courteous Kentucky fans.
Danjel’s comment will now be my banner picture. Yes. pic.twitter.com/PLohaeNnL3— Harlan Bailey Fan Account (@Mr_Lamont6) March 31, 2019
It seemed like all it took for Auburn to become the fan favorite in this game was the arrival of Kentucky fans. Not to mention the fact that during the game, local and national writers were all noting that the Wildcats seemed to get away with a ton of rough play where similar actions resulted in fouls for the Tigers.
Things weren’t going well. Auburn got down 7-0, 17-7, 27-17, and 30-20. Down by 10 points in the final three minutes of the half, the Tigers needed a spark, and got one from Jared Harper. He hit his first three of the game from the right wing, got fouled, and competed a four-point play.
Auburn ran off a 10-1 spur to pull within a 32-30 deficit, and even a late three-pointer by Kentucky couldn’t erase the surge of momentum that the Tigers had created going into the locker room. It was evident that the boost continued into the second half as Auburn went on a 10-0 run to take the first lead of the game, capped by a five-point trip from Bryce Brown.
Not enough can be said about the job that Auburn’s two guards did. 50 combined points, 6 steals, and a 15-16 performance from the line when that was Kentucky’s Achilles’ Heel.
In the end, Auburn was better. They were better without Chuma Okeke, and I’m fully convinced that the Tigers are subbing in the walk-ons for the third straight game if Okeke was able to play. He would’ve been that kind of a difference maker.
Enjoy this compilation of some of the best moments from the aftermath of yesterday’s win.
While Jared Harper was near-perfect in overtime (12 points, 3-5 FGs, 6-6 FTs), Bryce Brown was even closer to perfect in the second half. He went 6-6 from the floor, 3-3 from deep, and 2-3 from the line. It was that miss that turned into the steal and corner three, so I can’t really say that it was bad that he didn’t make it.
Bryce Brown texted his dad at halftime that he would not miss again. Bruce Pearl had another message: Get Bryce and Jared Harper the ball and get the f— out of the way. Brown didn't miss, the Tigers obeyed and now they're headed to the Final Four: https://t.co/t1LSWbV1Z2— CJ Moore (@CJMooreHoops) April 1, 2019
Meanwhile, Chuma Okeke wasn’t planning on being at the game, but he wheeled in at halftime to sit behind the bench. It obviously helped boost the team as they outscored Kentucky in the second half and overtime.
A dramatic wheelchair entrance, an imagined 30 for 30, and three bluebloods sent home. On Auburn's first-ever trip to the Final Four: https://t.co/Q7M6qcaVLI— Dan Greene (@thedangreene) April 1, 2019
All in all, it turned into the biggest Sunday night party that Auburn’s campus has ever seen.
LIVE: Auburn basketball returns home to the Arena after advancing to the Final Four for the first time in school history. https://t.co/86ByIDIqL1— Justin Ferguson (@JFergusonAU) April 1, 2019
And it wouldn’t be complete without everyone’s favorite smash-hit single “We’ve Got Jared”...
A rendition outside Auburn Arena pic.twitter.com/QIIIgOWMng— Adam Sparks (@sparks_photos) April 1, 2019
Now, it’s on to Virginia this Saturday in the Final Four. Auburn’s playing basketball in April. Let that sink in. It’s bananas. Much more to come — WAR EAGLE.