March 23, 2019 - Salt Lake City, Utah
NCAA Tournament 2nd Round
March 23, 2019: The day Crow introduced us to “We’ve Got Jared.”
And what a day this turned out to be for Auburn!
Nearly every team that makes a deep run in the NCAA Tournament has one game in which one or two plays would have ended their run much earlier than it did. The narrow escape was the best thing that happened to Auburn. You could see some disappointment in the players knowing they didn’t play their best at the end of the New Mexico State game. They were hungry for so much more. That said, the Tigers were exhausted. They played 4 games in 4 days, flew home for about 36 hours, and then flew to Salt Lake City for an early tip-off on Thursday. The 5 tough games in 8 days had taken its toll.
The Kansas tip wasn’t until 8PM Salt Lake City time so after the early game Thursday, Auburn got even more of a break before taking on Kansas. And while the anticipation waiting for this game was long and agonizing, I had a really good feeling about this game. This was not a vintage Kansas team of years past and if Auburn could establish the tempo and knock down their 3s, I really liked our chances.
Auburn certainly seemed prepared and ready for Kansas leading into the game.
Auburn (especially @malik_ihoop) feeling good before the Tigers take on Kansas in the 2nd Round of the NCAA Tournament. Winner goes to the Sweet 16. @AuburnMBB #NCAATourney #MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/z1We5qerS6— Scott Forester (@scott4ester) March 24, 2019
I’ve probably watched this second clip about 1,000 times and referenced Malik’s “Bout That Time” almost as many times.
Auburn was loose, confident, and had gotten that swagger back that had carried them to 9 straight wins since the end of February.
Auburn also had something to prove after the blowout loss to Clemson in the 2018 NCAA Tournament as well. They didn’t want history to repeat itself. And then there was Chuck being Chuck right before the game tipped off.
Chuck wanted Kansas. We all wanted Kansas and well, we got Kansas. What happened though was something none of us saw coming. After several near heart attacks and skyrocketing blood pressures on Thursday, there was none of that on this night.
Anfernee McLemore got Auburn on the board... but this time with a dunk after Kansas got the first basket, their only lead of the night. Malik Dunbar would score on the next possession which was followed by a Chuma Okeke steal and 3 from Jared Harper. And with that... Auburn was off to the races in Salt Lake City.
Bryce Brown would hit consecutive 3s 4 minutes in and the Tigers were off to a 15-5 start.
Then after the media timeout, the country got introduced to what we already knew: Jared Harper had some incredible hops for a 5’11” Point Guard. After a block from Okeke, Jared did the rest.
Jared Harper (((LIVE))) tbs pic.twitter.com/5IfPyDQAaA— Donnie B. from Tennessee (@CoachDonnieB) March 24, 2019
Every time Kansas scored, Auburn had an answer, case in point as Brown’s 3rd 3 of the evening gave Auburn a 20-7 lead.
My favorite play from Saturday's game vs Kansas. Got a bad switch that allowed an easy lay-up, but did that slow @AuburnMBB down? Nope. Bryce Brown three in transition off a MAKE four seconds later. pic.twitter.com/9MVSAGdsTR— Matthew Smith (@MdotSmitty_) March 27, 2019
Bryce Brown’s 4th 3-pointer in the first 7 minutes of the 1st half would force a 2nd Kansas timeout as the Tigers led 23-9. What was going on?
Brown scored from 2 on Auburn’s next possession and after a Kansas basket, Jared Harper knocked down his 2nd 3 of the evening as the Tigers were en fuego from long range early in this game.
After back to back layups from J’Von McCormick and Harper, Kansas called their THIRD timeout of the half. With 9 minutes left in the first half, the Jayhawks were down to 1 timeout for the rest of the game as Auburn led 34-15.
Chuma would join the 3-point brigade with 7:20 left in the half and Bryce Brown would knock down his 5th 3 of the half to give Auburn a 20 point lead, 40-20, with 6:41 to go in the 1st half.
We kept waiting for Kansas to make a late run in the 1st half but Auburn continued to increase their lead. Jared Harper ended a phenomenal half with a ridiculous shot as Auburn went to the locker room up 51-25. If the SEC Championship was one of the best defensive halves we saw all year, this may have been the best offensive first halves we saw all year.
In the first half of this game it was:
Bryce Brown (17) & Jared Harper (14): 31 Kansas: 25
Auburn 3-pointers made: 9 Kansas Field Goals made: 8
And the 2nd half started with a bang for Auburn as well:
In fact, it started great for both teams combined to make their first 12 shots of the half. And despite Kansas coming out hot to start the half, they gained basically no ground during the first 4 minutes of the 2nd half as Auburn’s lead was 66-41 going into the Under 16 timeout.
Kansas cut it to 18 with 14 minutes to go but Bryce Brown’s SEVENTH 3 of the game put Auburn ahead 70-49. A steal from Samir Doughty and dunk from Austin Wiley would thwart the Kansas run as they led by 23 once again.
Auburn’s lead would grow to 27 as the Tigers never gave Kansas any hope that they could come back and win this game. Auburn would hit 80 with 8 minutes left in the game and looked poised to score 90-100 but wouldn’t make another shot until a layup from Harper in the final minute. It didn’t matter as Auburn had built an insurmountable lead from the jump and buried Kansas.
It was an incredible night for Auburn fans everywhere as the Tigers advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2003 with a dominant performance.
Auburn finished 13-30 from 3 on the night after going 9-17 in the first half. Here is all of Auburn’s 3-pointers from this game:
Bry3333333ce Brown was responsible for 7 of those 3-pointers as he led the Tigers with 25 points, shooting 9-13 from the field, and 7-11 from 3-point range. He moved into 2nd all-time in SEC history in 3-pointers made.
Jared Harper had 18 points and 6 assists as the backcourt duo of Harper & Brown went for 43 against Kansas.
Chuma Okeke had 12 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists and Anfernee McLemore had 11 points and 5 rebounds.
Malik Dunbar, J’Von McCormick and Austin Wiley each added 6 points.
Here are the highlights!
And needless to say.... Toomer’s Corner was a fun place to be that night.
War Eagle!!! pic.twitter.com/F6fVN6SxlS— Jaylin Williams/Simpson Fan Account (@ShootyHoopsWill) March 24, 2019
Tomorrow with the bye week for football, we will look back at both the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games against North Carolina and Kentucky so you don’t want to miss those.