If he could do it over, maybe AJ Harris would’ve just taken the layup with a little more than a second left in the New Mexico State Aggies’ 78-77 loss to the Auburn Tigers in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
The New Mexico State guard somehow dribbled past the entire Auburn defense with his Aggies down 78-76, but passed up on the wide-open layup to get Terrell Brown a three-pointer from the right wing.
It was just the first of three opportunities New Mexico State blew with a chance to spring the first real upset of March Madness.
The decision nearly worked out perfectly for Harris. The Tigers fouled Brown as his sailed awry, sending the guard to the line for three free throws. He missed the first and made the second to get Auburn’s lead down to 78-77. Then the third shot went about as far down as a free throw can before it spun out.
The Aggies weren’t done missing chances.
Brown’s miss turned into a chaotic scrum beneath the hoop and the ball bounced off a Tiger last. No. 12-seed New Mexico State got one final chance to pull off the first upset of a No. 5 seed this year.
Guard Trevelin Queen ran to the left corner and got wide open, only to airball a last-second three. Auburn escaped with a win and the Aggies suffered the first heartbreaking moment of the NCAA Tourney.
The entire finish was wild. New Mexico State trailed 73-66 with 1:50 left, then steadily chipped away by fouling, forcing turnovers and hitting tough shots.
Harris cut the lead to 73-68 with a layup with 50 seconds to go, then the Tigers immediately turned the ball over. The Aggies hit a free throw, then Queen stole the ball and hit a three to cut Auburn’s lead down to 73-72. Auburn hit its next four free throws to take a 77-73 lead, but New Mexico State guard JoJo Zamora hit another three with eight seconds left.
After a 1-of-2 trip to the free-throw line for the Tigers, chaos ensued. Harris went coast to coast in a hurry before passing up a chance to force overtime. Instead, we’re still waiting on the first upset of Thursday.