MINNEAPOLIS — Bryce Brown sat in the corner of the locker room with his eyes red from the moments that will sit with him forever. The tears weren’t a result of Kyle Guy’s free throws, losing in the Final Four or missing a shot in the game’s final second.
After four years at Auburn, Brown was not prepared to take his jersey off.
With his team down by as much as 10, Brown didn’t want it to be over. He remembered the run to the Final Four, how Auburn tore through a conference tournament to Salt Lake City, to Kansas City and finally to Minneapolis. He remembered the countless 3-pointers he made as he and the basketball program rebuilt itself.
And no 3-pointer brought Brown to life more than one to bring Auburn within six against Virginia, or the one to put it up by two.
“I just didn’t want it to be over,” Brown said. “Guys kept encouraging me. I tried to keep confidence in them as well as they had confidence in me. As soon as I [saw] that one go through in the final few minutes, I knew that I had woken up, that I could get my team back in this.”
Brown hit one 3-pointer, and then another to cut the deficit to three, and then another to put Auburn up by two after a make by Danjel Purifoy.
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Bruce Pearl recruited Brown despite the three-star guard’s early commitment to Charlotte, and as the program worked toward both regular season and tournament conference titles, Pearl watched as the Tucker, Georgia native fought for more.
As Brown sat with cameras, microphones and recorders lowered down to him, Pearl watched one of his first recruitments at Auburn complete his collegiate career covered in emotion and pride. He remembered a moment from earlier in the season when Brown first thought about taking off his jersey for the final time.
“I can remember senior day, Bryce, Horace and Malik, but especially Bryce just kind of looking around and just going ‘wow,’” Pearl said. “All that he has worked for, all that time in the gym, it’s all for this.”
Brown will finish second all-time for career made 3-pointers in the SEC and at the top spot for Auburn’s career mark.
All for this, even for just a shot at playing for the national championship
Down by 10 with just over five minutes left to go, and then with the lead at the initial buzzer. The clock read just under a second after Guy’s free-throw makes, and Brown knew he was going to get the ball.
“I felt like we had a pretty good play to get the ball to me for me to make a shot,” Brown said. “I just didn’t have enough time. If I had an extra five-tenths of a second, I would have been able to square my body up and knock that shot down.”
His shot went off to the side. Brown sat and stared at the floor before rising, pulling his jersey over his face in frustration while walking back to his teammates.
All for this, even just for a moment, Brown realized he had to take his jersey off.
"That's what hurts the most,” Brown said. “I won't be able to wear this jersey again. Hopefully, I had a huge impact on this program because this program has definitely changed my life to the fullest.
“I've grown, I've matured. I'm just happy that Auburn gave me the opportunity to wear this jersey and be a great player."
Even in a loss, however, Brown looked ahead to Auburn’s future and the foundation for success that he said he helped build.
“This won't be the last time Auburn will be in the Final Four,” Brown said. “I feel like we'll definitely continue to see runs from Auburn just because we'll continue to get good players."
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