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A spirit that is not afraid

Heartbreak: Auburn's magical season ends at Final Four

Jared Harper (1) during Auburn Men's Basketball vs. UVA on Saturday, April 6, 2019, in Minneapolis, Minn.
Jared Harper (1) during Auburn Men's Basketball vs. UVA on Saturday, April 6, 2019, in Minneapolis, Minn.

MINNEAPOLIS — The run is over.

In its 63-62 loss to top-seeded Virginia on Saturday night, Auburn ended the 12-game winning streak that led it to its first Final Four appearance.

Virginia took the win and the national championship berth following a foul call at the buzzer that finished with Kyle Guy hitting three straight free-throw attempts.

Once the initial buzzer rang, head coach Bruce Pearl admitted that he thought the game was over.

“I thought we won it because I don’t know when the shot went off, and I saw the shot miss,” Pearl said. “I saw the officials kind of looking at each other — I don’t know.”

After leading Auburn back from a 10-point deficit to a lead in the final minute, Bryce Brown thought his team had done enough to move forward.

“We did a lot of things to win this game and put ourselves in position to win it,” Brown said. “It just came down to that last thing — the last call.

“I just don’t feel like it should have ended like that.”

Both Samir Doughty and Anfernee McLemore led Auburn to a three-point lead going into halftime with seven points apiece. The pair also combined for 11 rebounds — four for Doughty and a team-high six for McLemore — as Auburn out-rebounded the Cavaliers 20-14.

Despite the lead, however, Auburn finished with a 3-for-13 clip from downtown in the first half to pair with 12-for-29 shooting from the floor.

Jared Harper and Brown combined for seven points on their own in — four and three, respectively — while combining to shoot 33 percent from the floor.

Harper finished with 11 on the night as Brown added 12.

Compared to a 43 percent performance by Virginia to open the game, the Cavaliers would close out by shooting 57 percent.

Ty Jerome finished with a game-high 21 points while shooting 50 percent. Guy added 15 to go along with his game-winning shots at the free-throw line.

Auburn opened the second half missing its first eight shots, with the first make coming from a 3-pointer by Harper just over five minutes in. Despite maintaining a single-digit deficit for a majority of the second half, the Tigers finished the game off by shooting 35 percent.

Brown's 3-pointer with less than four minutes remaining sparked a comeback that brought Auburn within one and a lead to the final buzzer.

“We didn’t start the second half that well defensively,” Harper said. “We let them do what they wanted. Being able to climb back in the game and get in that position was great for us, but of course, we could have finished with a different result.”

With the lead up until the final moments, Virginia and Guy led the madness of March into the chaos of April.

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In the midst of chaos and heartbreak, Pearl looked back at the run his team made and being where it wasn’t meant to be.

And especially within moments of playing for a national championship.

“I think that for us, I thought that we looked like we belonged,” Pearl said. “We were — we weren’t supposed to be here. We weren’t supposed to have a chance to win, or maybe had a chance a win, but unlikely.”

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