South Carolina’s GRANVILLE — Jabari Smith took a step away from the basket, placed his hands on his head, and peered upwards at one point in the game.
After he missed another layup with 11:44 left, he was fouled. Smith became frustrated and yelled. That sums up a magnificent Auburn basketball team’s final game.
On Sunday, a 79-61 loss to No. 10 seed Miami in the second round of the NCAA Tournament ended one of Auburn’s best seasons ever.
Tigers (28-6) were ranked first in both polls after a 19-game winning streak, but have now lost five in a row. A regular season SEC championship was won for the fourth time in the school’s history.
However, they were unable to go past the first round of either the conference or national finals. While they made it to the Final Four as a No. 5 seed three years ago, this year’s No. 2 seed elimination came in the Sweet 16.
A Team Can Only Perform as Well as its Best Individual Members.
The All-American frontcourt duo of Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler led Auburn to the fourth slot in the SEC, despite the Tigers being expected to finish fifth. They were victorious in the first game on Friday thanks to a combined 33 points and 24 boards.
The guard position was constantly scrutinised this year, as both Smith and Kessler had subpar performances in the regular season finale.
Smith was only successful with 3 of 16 attempts from the field and 1 of 8 from beyond the arc. As a result of his early foul problems, Kessler wasn’t quite himself when he returned for the second half. He scored two points, grabbed two rebounds, and blocked two shots on zero-for-six shooting.
Twenty-one of Auburn’s 69 field goal attempts were successful; this included five of twenty-six three-pointers made and eleven of twenty-four layups made.
The Attack Died a Death by Its Own Hands.
The window was left open, and nobody seemed to notice. No lanes were closed. K.D. Johnson gave Auburn’s supporters one last cause to celebrate with a chase-down block reminiscent of LeBron James. Wendell Green Jr. grabbed the offensive board and sprinted in for a layup, but he failed to convert.
Miami senior and NBA all-star Charlie Moore collected himself in transition, created space for himself, and hit a jump shot at the other end of the court. He signalled for calm in Miami and everyone backed off. Even though they had the youngest team in the conference, Auburn was losing to a team with four sixth-year seniors.
Miami’s survival in the tournament was due solely to the 13.8 turnovers per game committed by their opponents. Auburn has eight turnovers in the first 14 minutes. As a team, they scored thirteen points while Miami scored only four.
When these Tigers were in full gear, it was a joy to see them play. When playing on Sunday, they were noticeably slower than the other team. Location: Miami.
Why is there such a big gap in the vital points? Results: Miami 30, Auburn 1.
It was Challenging to Run a Game Under Such Dire Conditions.
Coach Bruce Pearl was forced to make some tough game management decisions after Kessler picked up two fouls in the first four minutes. A small-ball lineup with Smith and Jaylin Williams would be deployed after he began the game with Dylan Cardwell at the five spot.
While Smith had trouble putting the ball in the basket, Williams was there to aid (two of his ten first-half attempts). He played 10 minutes two days after getting dental work done and scored 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting.
So far this season, Cardwell’s defence had been all over the place. In the last minutes of the first half, when Miami shot 5-for-16 and Auburn closed to within a point, he played tenaciously to keep his team in the game.
Kessler went scoreless on the first five shots he had after halftime, and Miami responded with an 8-0 run. Consequently, he stopped trying to shoot at them.
When things are going terribly, Pearl is not the type to intentionally call a timeout. Due to their overall youth, the Tigers struggled to reorganise on their own.