Yale got a favorable whistle, but Auburn had plenty of chances to win: The final minute dissected

Auburn got sent packing early in the NCAA Tournament by the Ivy League champs. While Tigers fans are right to complain about the officiating, ultimately Auburn's late-game execution is to blame.
Auburn Tigers guard Tre Donaldson (3)
Auburn Tigers guard Tre Donaldson (3) / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn came into the NCAA Tournament riding the high of an SEC Championship, but after just one game they’ll head back to The Plains and pick up the pieces of a season filled with so much promise. The 13th-seeded Bulldogs orchestrated a late-game comeback and escaped with a 78-76 win in Spokane Washington. 

Auburn had 25 personal fouls called against it, plus a flagrant two on Chad Baker-Mazara just a little over two minutes into the first half. Johni Broome was regularly mobbed in the paint, while Bruce Pearl and Auburn fans grew increasingly incensed at the officiating, yet ultimately, the referees aren’t to blame, the team in blue and orange is. 

The final minute

Within just the last minute, Auburn committed two fouls 94 feet from the hoop, giving Yale free trips to the line, missed the front end of a one-and-one twice, went a combined 2-6 from the line and 1-5 from the field. 

There were multiple scrambles for the ball under Yale’s basketball that resulted in no points for the SEC team, battling with the Ivy Leaguers. 

Auburn did not get the good side of the whistle all game long, but when they did finally get trips to the foul line, Tre Donaldson, an 83% free throw shooter, Denver Jones an 88% free throw shooter, and KD Johnson who finished the year at 78% from the line went 0-4. 

KD Johnson appeared to have a heroic moment, making a layup and getting fouled with 8.7 seconds remaining, but he failed to convert the old-fashioned three-point play which would have cut it to a one-point Yale lead. 

Johni Broome was the centerpiece of the Tigers all season, but Auburn’s greatest strength was its depth. None of that depth showed up in the big moments, and Broome couldn’t do it himself. He ended the game down on the ground, hurt, and defeated his 24 points, 13 rebounds, four assists, two steals, and block not enough to save his team. 

The complaints about the officiating are warranted, but Auburn has its guards to blame for an early NCAA Tournament exit.

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