GREENVILLE, SOUTH CAROLINA (EETV)- Auburn Basketball reached heights they never reached before. They won an SEC Regular Season Title for the fourth time in school history and had a player named SEC Freshman of the Year for the first time in school history.
On Sunday, Auburn basketball’s season came to a close in a 79-61 loss to the Miami Hurricanes. Auburn’s season finishes in the second round of the NCAA Tournament and with a record of 28-6.
"It's very difficult to get to that weekend [Sweet 16 Weekend]," Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said with tears in his eyes. "Miami played really well from the opening tip. They got us."
Auburn came out of the gate in this game sloppy turning the ball over on their opening two possessions. Creating turnovers is what Miami’s defense has done well all season and did against Auburn. The Tigers turned the ball over 13 times in the loss.
Miami turned those turnovers into 17 points. Auburn on the other hand was only able to capitalize once off of a Miami turnover for two points. Miami in their two games so far in the NCAA Tournament has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 33-to-7.
"Sometimes, when you talk to the losing coach they don't know the answers," Pearl said. "If I knew, I would've prevented it."
Down the final stretch of the season, Auburn’s guards had been creating much of the woes for Auburn. On Sunday, the All-American frontcourt duo of Walker Kessler and Jabari Smith turned in their worst performances on the season. The two went a combined 3-22 from the field for a total of 12 points. Much of their scoring came from the free throw line.
Kessler went 0-6 from the field with his two points coming from the free throw line. Kessler was only able to compile two rebounds and two blocks.
Smith, on the other hand, went 3-18 from the field for a total of 10 points. The highest ever recruit in Auburn history went 1-8 from deep in this game. Smith was still able to record his seventh double-double of the season in the loss as he recorded 15 rebounds.
"They just made it kind of tough for me," Jabari Smith said. "Credit to them. They defended me well."
The Kessler/Smith duo had controlled the paint all year long, well until tonight. Auburn got outscored in the paint by 20 points. Auburn only managed to score 28 points in the paint. That was their third-lowest total of the season.
"This was the first time we got it handed to us all season," Pearl said. "We just didn't know how to respond."
Arguably, the only that was good for Auburn was their bench. Auburn outscored Miami’s bench by 24 points. Jaylin Williams and Wendell Green created much of the scoring from the bench as they totaled a combined 13 points.
"I'm excited to build it around Jaylin next year," Pearl said.
Miami will move onto the sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament and will take on 11-seed Iowa State in Chicago, Illinois on Friday, March 25.
No matter how this season came to a close for Auburn, no one can deny that this was a historic season for Auburn. The first-ever Associated Press Poll No. 1 ranking, an SEC Regular Season Title and honors that have never been won in Auburn history.
"What I'll take from the team is the fact that they brought it every night," Pearl said. "The won more road games than team in the SEC in league play, and we have the best home court advantage in league play. That's why we were able to finish. So, champions."