SPORTS

Missed FTs, Late Pass Cost NM State In 78-77 Loss To Auburn

Mar 21, 2019, 10:23 PM
Johnny McCants #35 of the New Mexico State Aggies rebounds the ball against the Auburn Tigers durin...
Johnny McCants #35 of the New Mexico State Aggies rebounds the ball against the Auburn Tigers during the second half in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Vivint Smart Home Arena on March 21, 2019 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — A.J. Harris had an easy layup for the tie. He wanted a win for New Mexico State.

It didn’t work out, but boy-oh-boy, what a way for the Aggies to go down swinging Thursday against fifth-seeded Auburn in the NCAA Tournament.

With the clock ticking down, Harris passed on an open layup and kicked out to wide-open teammate Terrell Brown, who was spotted up for the game-winner behind the arc. Brown was fouled as he took the shot, but missed two of three free throws with 1.1 seconds left, and New Mexico State fell 78-77.

It’s hard to call the 12th-seeded Aggies losers after their showing in the opening round of the Midwest Region, though.

“I can sit up here and second guess,” said New Mexico State coach Chris Jans, “but if he makes the 3, or makes all three free throws, it’s an Ali-Frazier moment.”

Harris said he knew the Aggies were trailing by two as he took the inbounds pass with 6 seconds left, darted up the left side of the court, sped past J’Von McCormick, and then got a step on Auburn forward Chuma Okeke.

There was nothing but air between the 5-foot-9 guard and the basket as he made his way through the key.

“Yes, I did, I had an open shot,” Harris said. “But I felt Terrell Brown was going to hit the 3.”

He missed, but took a foul from Bryce Brown, who was late getting out to the arc, and clearly as shocked as anyone to see the ball get kicked back out.

“They have a lot of shot-blockers on their team, so I could see why he would kick it out,” Terrell Brown said of his teammate’s decision.

With McCormick making the choke sign as Brown toed the line — “I saw in his face, he was pretty scared,” McCormick said — the junior guard watched his first free throw clank out. He stepped up again and made the second. Then the third one bounced around the iron before bounding out.

Auburn knocked the rebound out of bounds and New Mexico State’s Trevelin Queen had an open look from the wing at the buzzer but shot an air ball.

That huge sigh of relief? It came from Auburn. The Tigers (27-9) led by as many as 13 midway through the second half, and McCormick’s three-point play gave Auburn a 73-65 lead with 2:13 left.

It looked like it was time for Auburn to start making plans for Saturday’s second round.

Two turnovers, two missed free throws and two Aggies 3-pointers later, the Tigers were fighting for their lives, hoping Brown, a 78-percent free-throw shooter who had more attempts from the line than anyone on his team this season, would miss at least one.

He missed two.

“Until you get in that moment, you don’t know how you’re going to react,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said, when asked about the Tigers’ near meltdown.

He found out.

So did New Mexico State.

The Aggies shot 952 3-pointers this season — ninth most in the country. And though the result hurt, chances are, they’d do the same thing again.

“We’ve got shooters who stay after practice, they work on that shot all the time,” Aggies forward Johnny McCants said. “We had open shots the whole game. We just didn’t get them to fall.”

Sports

Max-Shulga-Utah-State-Aggies-Mens-Basketball...
Kyle Ireland

Colorado State Apologizes After Negative Chant Toward Utah State’s Max Shulga

Colorado State issued an apology after the its student section chanted "Russia' at USU's Max Shulga during a game between the Aggies and Rams.
11 hours ago
Cameron-Gooden-Utah-Tech-Trailblazers...
Kyle Ireland

Utah Tech Fights Off Southern Utah’s Comeback Attempt For Rivalry Win

The Utah Tech men's basketball team held off a valiant comeback attempt by the Southern Utah Thunderbirds for an in-state rivalry victory.
1 day ago
BYU Basketball, Pacific Tigers, Fousseyni Traore...
Mitch Harper

Instant Takeaways From BYU’s 81-66 Win Over Pacific

BYU used a big run to end the first half to pull away from the Pacific Tigers.
1 day ago
Weber-State-Wildcats-Idaho-State-Bengals-Mens-Basketball...
Chandler Holt

Weber State Wins Double Overtime Thriller Against Idaho State

The Weber State Wildcats, 11-11, traveled to Reed Gym to take on the Idaho State Bengals, 8-14, on Saturday.
1 day ago
Steven Ashworth - Utah State Aggies...
Brian Preece

12 Second Half Threes Lead Utah State Over Colorado State

It was raining in Fort Collins as Utah State made 12 second-half threes on their way to an 88-79 road win against Colorado State.
1 day ago
Brayan-Vera-Soccer-Serie-A...
Kyle Ireland and Tom Hackett, KSL Sports

Reports: Real Salt Lake Reaches Verbal Agreement With Colombian Defender

Real Salt Lake and Colombian defender Brayan Vera reached a verbal agreement, according to multiple reports.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

High angle view of the beautiful Rose Bowl Stadium...
KSL Digital Sales

How to Prepare for the 2023 Rose Bowl

Everything you need to know to plan your 2023 Rose Bowl trip in Pasadena, California. This year, the Utes will face Penn State.
Jordan-Clarkson-Utah-Jazz...
KSL Digital Sales

Notable Moments From The Utah Jazz Season… So Far

At the beginning of the season, the Utah Jazz were second to last. Now they rank in the top 10 teams in the Western Conference.
Football soccer ball on grass field on stadium...
KSL Digital Sales

Everything You Need to Know to Watch the 2022 World Cup

Find out where and when to watch the upcoming games and final match for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, including where to find live updates.
ksl sports logos...
KSL Sports

KSL Sports Newsletter: Sign Up Now

Sign up today for the KSL Sports newsletter. Get the latest Utah sports news delivered to your inbox.
jimmy-buffett-tour-art...
KSL Sports

Win Tickets Wednesday: Jimmy Buffett

Get your Hawaiian shirts ready.
Iron Maiden tour...
KSL Sports

Win Tickets Wednesday: Iron Maiden

Iron Maiden returns to Utah in 2022 with The Legacy of the Beast tour.
Missed FTs, Late Pass Cost NM State In 78-77 Loss To Auburn