Auburn’s first Final Four berth ended in a perfectly Auburn way.
The best season in Tiger history finishes with a 63-62 loss to Virginia as Kyle Guy hit three free throws with 0.6 seconds left after a controversial foul call to send him to the line. Samir Doughty bumped Guy on a potential game-winning three-pointer, and both sides were confused as to whether or not they should celebrate a win and a berth in the national championship game.
Instead of running to the opposite end of the court, Auburn players stood in disbelief as Guy was awarded three free throws. He hit them all, and Bryce Brown’s last second circus shot fell off the backboard as time expired.
Personally, it was a foul. Doughty jumped up, bumped into him, and it’s tough. They didn’t call small touches like that all game long, but at the most crucial moment they blow the whistle. Either way, I believe it was the right call.
What wasn’t the correct call was the obvious double-dribble that would’ve given Auburn the ball with just 2 seconds left. The referees missed Ty Jerome dribble off of his foot, pick the ball up again, and keep dribbling. It should’ve been a turnover, and it should’ve given the ball back to Auburn for an inbound play near midcourt.
Instead, Virginia advances to the national championship instead of Auburn.
The Tigers made a fantastic comeback, down 57-47 after a Ty Jerome three-pointer gave the Cavaliers a ten-point lead with 5:24 to play. Auburn could have folded, but Bryce Brown woke up and hit three threes in the span of three minutes, with his last one taking the Tigers back on top 59-57. Anfernee McLemore hit two foul shots to put Auburn up 61-57, but a Kyle Guy three cut the margin to just a point.
Jared Harper then made one of two free throws, and the final sequence ensued. It came after Auburn had made the decision to play the majority of the game in Virginia’s style. Despite cold shooting from outside in the first half, and a slow, slow pace, Auburn led 31-28 at halftime.
After the intermission, things changed in Virginia’s favor as the Cavaliers held Auburn scoreless for more than five minutes to begin the second half. Jared Harper hit a big three to end the drought and pull the Tigers within a 36-34 deficit, but Auburn couldn’t cut it to less than a one-point margin. Samir Doughty buried a big three with 9:53 to go to cut the lead to 44-43, but that’s when the Cavs made their run.
Over the next four and a half minutes, Virginia went on a 13-4 spurt, capped by the Jerome three, and the excruciating final moments came shortly after that.
Samir Doughty led Auburn in scoring with 13 points off the bench, to go along with 5 rebounds. Bryce Brown hit four threes for 12 points, and Jared Harper scored 11 points for the Tigers, who shot 38% overall, but just 9-31 from downtown. Meanwhile, Virginia hit 49% of its shots, and Ty Jerome led all scorers with 21 points. Kyle Guy added 15 and Deandre Hunter scored 14 for the Cavaliers, who advance to Monday night’s championship game against either Michigan State or Texas Tech.
The best season in Auburn’s history ends at 30-10. It’s the most wins in Tiger history, and the furthest that Auburn has ever advanced in the NCAA Tournament.
Auburn fans (and everyone aside from Alabama fans) feel the heartbreak of the season ending, and feel the sadness of never getting to see Bryce Brown, Horace Spencer, and Malik Dunbar on the floor again. Bryce hit his 139th three-pointer of the season during this game, which put him on top for the most threes in a single season in SEC history, and he finished second all-time in career threes in SEC history as well.
We’ll have much, much more on this game and this season as we go forward this coming week, but right now it’s tough to see a game end that way.
Hey guys, War Damn Eagle. It sucks to lose like that, but it’s always great to be an Auburn fan.