For the first time in school history, Bruce Pearl and the Auburn Tigers are going to the Final Four!
After falling to Kentucky in their first two meetings this season, Auburn pulled out a 77-71 overtime victory Sunday against their conference foes to win the Midwest Regional and advance to the Final Four.
In an Elite Eight filled with absolutely incredible games, this one was one of the best. While Kentucky jumped out to an early lead behind the strong play of PJ Washington, Auburn chipped away and turned the early 10 point deficit into a five point deficit going into the half. Washington had 15 points for the Wildcats in the first 20 minutes, while the Tigers had more of a balanced approach, getting eight from Jared Harper and seven from Bryce Brown over the first frame.
The second half was action-packed. Auburn continued to chip away and Brown hit a three to put the Tigers on top for the first time with 17 minutes to play. Auburn would retain the lead for the majority of the half, pushing it as high as six with six minutes to play, but Kentucky wouldn’t go away quietly. With one minute to play, Washington hit a shot to give the Wildcats the lead back, but Harper answered with a layup on the other end to tie it back up. Kentucky then had a chance to win it, but Horace Spencer blocked Washington’s shot, then Spencer missed a three to send the game to overtime.
Overtime was just as good as regulation, with both teams trading haymakers, but it became the Jared Harper show. Harper had 12 of Auburn’s 17 points in the extra period, singlehandedly outscoring the Wildcats, 12-11.
Unsurprisingly, Harper was named Most Outstanding Player of the regional after the game. Auburn will move on to Minnesota where they’ll meet Virginia in the Final Four next Saturday. Kentucky ends the year at 30-7.