Virginia stuns Auburn on controversial 3-shot foul in final second

Auburn was nearly there. At Toomer’s Cornertoilet paper was already flying. With one second remaining in Saturday’s first Final Four showdown, and with a two-point lead, the Tigers had a first national championship appearance in program history at their fingertips.

Then they made the most critical mistake of the 2019 NCAA tournament, fouling a 3-point shooter, sending Kyle Guy to the free throw line, and ultimately sending Virginia to the national title game on Monday night.

With Auburn up 62-60, Samir Doughty fouled Guy in the left corner on an off-balance 3-point attempt. Guy – with Auburn’s Bryce Brown making a choking gesture mere feet behind him – cooly nailed all three free throws to win the game.

Before the first of three, “Obviously there was a tingly feeling in my stomach,” Guy said in the locker room after the game. “It was a good kind of nervousness. I was trying to look for [my fiancée] Alexa, and I couldn’t see her because she’s too short, so I saw my dad. We made eye contact. He said, ‘You got this. I said, ‘Yeah, I know I do.’”

Controversial calls cap wild final 10 seconds

Virginia had not scored for over five minutes when U.S. Bank Stadium clocks ticked down under 10 seconds. A 14-0 Auburn run had turned a 10-point deficit into a four-point Tiger lead. The underdogs appeared to be on the verge of sealing a monumental comeback.

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The best photos and moments from March Madness 2019
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The best photos and moments from March Madness 2019
Buffalo's Jeremy Harris chases after a loose ball during the second half of a first round men's college basketball game against Arizona State in the NCAA Tournament Friday, March 22, 2019, in Tulsa, Okla. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Wisconsin guard D'Mitrik Trice, bottom, holds onto the ball under Oregon guard Ehab Amin during the first half of a first-round game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament, Friday, March 22, 2019, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Buffalo's Dontay Caruthers celebrates a teammates basket during the first half of a first round men's college basketball game against Arizona State in the NCAA Tournament Friday, March 22, 2019, in Tulsa, Okla. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
DES MOINES, IOWA - MARCH 21: Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans glares at Aaron Henry #11 after a play during their game in the First Round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament against the Bradley Braves at Wells Fargo Arena on March 21, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH - MARCH 21: Jared Harper #1 of the Auburn Tigers falls after driving to the basket during the first half against the New Mexico State Aggies in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Vivint Smart Home Arena on March 21, 2019 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kansas State guard Shaun Neal-Williams (1) loses the ball between UC Irvine guard Spencer Rivers, left, and guard Evan Leonard during the first half of a first round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament Friday, March 22, 2019, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Michigan State forward Xavier Tillman (23) grabs a rebound over Bradley guard Ja'Shon Henry (22) during a first round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament, Thursday, March 21, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Belmont 's Dylan Windler, center, goes to the basket between Maryland 's Bruno Fernando, left, and Darryl Morsell (11) during the second half of the first round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament in Jacksonville, Fla. Thursday, March 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
Wisconsin guard Khalil Iverson, left, shoots against Oregon forward Paul White during the first half of a first round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament, Friday, March 22, 2019, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Houston's DeJon Jarreau dunks the ball during the first half of a first round men's college basketball game against Georgia State in the NCAA Tournament Friday, March 22, 2019, in Tulsa, Okla. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Mississippi State guard Lamar Peters watches during the second half of the team's game against Liberty in the first round of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Friday, March 22, 2019, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
LSU players celebrate after defeating Maryland 69-67 in a second-round game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament in Jacksonville, Fla., Saturday, March 23, 2019. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Gonzaga's Josh Perkins (13) reaches for Corey Kispert (24) after Kispert's 3-pointer against Baylor during the second half of a second-round game in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Saturday, March 23, 2019, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Gonzaga forward Corey Kispert, left, looks to pass as Baylor guard Mario Kegler defends during the second half of a second-round game in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Saturday, March 23, 2019, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Jeff Swinger)
Texas Tech's Jarrett Culver (23) shoots past Buffalo's Nick Perkins (33) during the second half of a second round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament Sunday, March 24, 2019, in Tulsa, Okla. Texas Tech won 78-58. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Oregon forward Louis King celebrates after scoring against UC Irvine during the second half of a second-round game in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Sunday, March 24, 2019, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Florida State guard Trent Forrest, left, blocks a shot by Gonzaga guard Zach Norvell Jr. during the second half an NCAA men's college basketball tournament West Region semifinal Thursday, March 28, 2019, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY - MARCH 28: Matt Haarms #32 of the Purdue Boilermakers reacts against the Tennessee Volunteers during the second half of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at the KFC YUM! Center on March 28, 2019 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Texas guard Matt Coleman III (2) screams after taking a charge by a Colorado player during an NCAA college basketball game in the quarterfinals of the NIT on Wednesday, March 27, 2019, in Austin, Texas. (Nick Wagner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)
Michigan guard Charles Matthews, left, and guard Jordan Poole leave the court after the team's loss to Texas Tech during an NCAA men's college basketball tournament West Region semifinal Thursday, March 28, 2019, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 30: Brandon Clarke #15 and Rui Hachimura #21 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs compete for the ball against Norense Odiase #32 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders during the first half of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament West Regional at Honda Center on March 30, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Texas Tech forward Tariq Owens celebrates after scoring against Michigan during the second half an NCAA men's college basketball tournament West Region semifinal Thursday, March 28, 2019, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Auburn's Chuma Okeke (5) grabs his leg as he loses control of the ball on his way to the basket as North Carolina's Cameron Johnson (13) and North Carolina's Brandon Robinson, left, defend during the second half of a men's NCAA tournament college basketball Midwest Regional semifinal game Friday, March 29, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. Okeke was injured on the play. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Michigan State forward Xavier Tillman (23) beats out LSU forward Darius Days (22) for the loose ball during the first half of an East Regional semifinal in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Friday, March 29, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
North Carolina's Seventh Woods, left, and Kenny Williams pause near the end of a men's NCAA tournament college basketball Midwest Regional semifinal game against Auburn Friday, March 29, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 29: Ahmed Hill #13 of the Virginia Tech Hokies reacts after missing a layup against the Duke Blue Devils late in the second half in the East Regional game of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Capital One Arena on March 29, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Duke guard Tre Jones (3) reacts after scoring against Virginia Tech during the second half of an NCAA men's college basketball tournament East Region semifinal in Washington, Friday, March 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Gonzaga forward Rui Hachimura scores against Texas Tech during the first half of a men's NCAA Tournament college basketball West Regional final game Saturday, March 30, 2019, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Virginia's De'Andre Hunter dribbles past Purdue's Grady Eifert (24) during the first half of the men's NCAA Tournament college basketball South Regional final game, Saturday, March 30, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Purdue's Trevion Williams (50) puts up a shot against Virginia's Jack Salt (33) during the second half of the men's NCAA Tournament college basketball South Regional final game, Saturday, March 30, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Virginia's Mamadi Diakite, center, reacts with teammates Kyle Guy and Jack Salt (33) after hitting a shot to send the game into overtime in the men's NCAA Tournament college basketball South Regional final game against Purdue, Saturday, March 30, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Auburn's Anfernee McLemore (24) and Kentucky's Reid Travis (22) reach for a rebound during the first half of the Midwest Regional final game in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Sunday, March 31, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Auburn's Jared Harper, left, drives to the basket past Kentucky's Reid Travis during the first half of the Midwest Regional final game in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Sunday, March 31, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 31: Tre Jones #3 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts after his teams 68-67 loss to the Michigan State Spartans in the East Regional game of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Capital One Arena on March 31, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Michigan State guard Cassius Winston, right, celebrates with teammates Matt McQuaid (20), Nick Ward (44) and Gabe Brown (13) after defeating Duke in an NCAA men's East Regional final college basketball game in Washington, Sunday, March 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 31: Zion Williamson #1 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts in the locker room after his teams 68-67 loss to the Michigan State Spartans in the East Regional game of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Capital One Arena on March 31, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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But Guy finally found nylon with a 3 from the right corner with 7.4 seconds left – Virginia’s first points since the 5:22 mark. It brought the Cavs within 1.

After a foul on the ensuing inbounds play, Jared Harper knocked down his first free throw, but missed the second, giving Virginia the ball down two. Auburn, intelligently, fouled – because it had two to give.

Then, in the final five seconds, the Final Four went off the rails. Ty Jerome, attempting to dribble behind his back, lost control of the ball. He frantically retreated to pick it up, then attempted to restart his dribble. According to CBS rules expert Gene Steratore, he should have been whistled for a double-dribble.

Instead, referees called a foul on Auburn – the Tigers’ second and final one to give. With 1.5 seconds remaining, Virginia had the ball on the sidelines. Tony Bennett drew up a play to get Guy a shot in the corner. Doughty did the one thing he absolutely could not do.

[Best Bracket Millionaire: Who’s going to win it all?]

And Virginia, somehow, pulled out the win as boos rained down from the stands in Minneapolis.

Boos weren’t the only thing flying from the stands. Bottles reportedly rained down as well.

Most Auburn players were simply stunned. Bryce Brown, though, was furious. “The NCAA need to get some new refs,” he repeated multiple times as he stomped back to the locker room:

More composed later at Auburn’s postgame news conference, Brown said, “I just didn’t think it was a foul. But the refs thought otherwise. Can’t go back and rewind it.”

Later, he added: “I just didn’t agree with the call. I can’t say too much about that.”

Said Harper: “It was a tough call. But that’s not where we lost the game.”

Pearl did not mention the calls in his opening statement at the news conference. After a lengthy discussion with NCAA individuals, Pearl told CBS’ Tracy Wolfson he would not address the calls.

When asked about the non-call on the double-dribble at the news conference, he said, “We were in a situation where we had some fouls to give. And I knew there was a disruption there. And you just gotta get on to the next play.”

Although Pearl and his players took the high road, the two calls, and particularly the final one – which was probably correct, but nonetheless controversial – will be discussed and debated for hours, days, and perhaps years to come.

Auburn misfires from 3 early, but grabs lead inside arc

Before the insanity, Saturday’s Final Four curtain-raiser was a tense but somewhat mundane affair.

As it had against North Carolina and Kentucky in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight, Auburn misfired from 3 early. It started 1-of-11, the only make from Brown.

But the Tigers finished the first half at over a point per possession after splashing two late 3s, in large part because they got to the rim against the vaunted Virginia defense. The Cavaliers had troubled preventing dribble penetration. Auburn shot 9-for-15 insidethe arc over the first 20 minutes, and, despite its poor long-range accuracy, led 31-28 at halftime.

The first half was relatively uneventful. The second half promised more. And in the end, it certainly delivered. But only because it began as an offensive wasteland for one team, and nearly finished as one for the other.

Virginia takes control early in second

Coming out of an extended halftime break, Auburn missed its first eight field goal attempts. It didn’t score for almost six minutes.

The drought allowed Virginia to inch ahead. De’Andre Hunter wasn’t his usual active self in the first half. But he was explosive early in the second, scoring Virginia’s first two buckets, and emphatically denying Brown at the rim:

Four points from Kihei Clark, two off a steal, pushed the Virginia run to 8-0.

The Cavs initially failed to take further advantage of Auburn’s inefficiency. Jared Harper hit a 3 to end the barren stretch. One possession later, after an Auburn steal and fast-break layup, the game was once again tied.

But Virginia kept plugging away. Hunter scored inside after snagging an offensive board in between two Tigers with one hand. He then finished acrobatically with his left to put the Cavaliers back up four.

Jerome extended the lead to seven for the first time with a big 3-pointer inside nine minutes remaining. Another rainbow that rattled home with 5:22 remaining – off a beautiful set play drawn up by the Virginia coaching staff – made it 57-47 in favor of the Cavs.

That was the last time Virginia would score until the final 10 seconds.

Auburn’s comeback

That 57-47 scoreline was the first double-digit lead for either team, and capped a 13-4 Virginia run. Given the top seed’s methodical offense and staunch defense, it also felt like a dagger.

Harper had hit a pull-up 3 minutes earlier that seemed like it would get him going. But Clark and Virginia had Auburn’s stars locked down on the perimeter. By the time Bruce Pearl called a timeout after Jerome’s last triple, Brown – Auburn’s leading scorer – had gone more than 30 minutes without a single point.

The senior, however, caught fire immediately thereafter. He bottomed a 3 with just over four minutes remaining to cut the lead to six. He then hit another from the corner, off an Auburn offensive rebound, to slash Virginia’s advantage to three. Danjel Purifoy whittled it down to one with a floater on the next possession.

Mamadi Diakite’s two free throw misses at the other end gave Auburn a chance to take the lead, and the Tigers pounced. Brown hit another 3, completing the comeback. Virginia kept running poor offense, dallying on the perimeter, seemingly completing its collapse.

Then the unthinkable happened. The wild final sequence undid it all. Virginia won its fifth tournament game in a row despite second-half deficits in four of them.

For the second round in a row, it won despite trailing by multiple points with one second remaining.

Only in March Madness could such a sentence be written. Only in college basketball could a team rebound from the lowest of lows in the sport’s history to within one step from the top of its mountain.

Virginia will try to take that final step on Monday against either Michigan State or Texas Tech.

 

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