KANSAS CITY, Mo. — On Saturday, Auburn Coach Bruce Pearl sat and listened as one after another of his top players acknowledged that neither Kansas nor North Carolina nor Kentucky had recruited them. No, they were not high school all-Americans; in fact, they were barely recruited at all.
“I’m a mutt, too,” Pearl said. Proudly. Defiantly.
On Sunday, those mutts, as their coach affectionately calls them, cut down the nets at the Sprint Center as Midwest Regional champions, sending the Tigers to the Final Four for the first time in program history. Proudly. Defiantly.
After all, it took a sweep of the same teams that had overlooked them: Kansas, North Carolina and, finally, Kentucky in overtime, 77-71.
It was a highflying, bruising 45 minutes between two Southeastern Conference rivals that earned Auburn a trip to Minneapolis to play Virginia in an N.C.A.A. national semifinal.
It was a ticket punched without Chuma Okeke, Auburn’s one true blue chipper and the Tigers’ best player. Okeke, a 6-foot-8 sophomore, injured his left knee in Auburn’s victory over North Carolina and will have surgery on a torn anterior cruciate ligament on Tuesday in Alabama.
In fact, it looked as if Okeke was irreplaceable as his teammates struggled through a first half in which they made only 3 of 11 shots from the beyond the arc, the bombs-away zone that has accounted for 43.5 percent of the team’s offense. Instead, they shot air balls and watched as free throws that looked good suddenly spun up and out of the basket. Still, they headed into the locker room at halftime trailing the Wildcats by 35-30.
Then Okeke showed up. Before the bus pulled out Sunday morning, Pearl left it up to Okeke to decide where he wanted to watch the game. He was in terrible pain and decided to stay in the hotel with family members. He changed his mind late in the first half and appeared on the sidelines in a wheelchair.
“I asked him before the game if he was going to come,” Bryce Brown said. “Emotionally, he said, ‘I’m in too much pain to come.’”
Samir Doughty said Okeke’s appearance, after his initial reluctance, said a lot.
“That goes to show how great of a teammate he is, honestly, for him to show up, knowing how much pain he was in,” Doughty said.
Suddenly, the fifth-seeded Tigers found their range. Kentucky’s P. J. Washington and Keldon Johnson didn’t seem as long and elastic as they had, clogging passing lanes and pinning shots to the glass. Instead, Doughty put the handcuffs on Kentucky’s sharpshooter Tyler Herro, who finished with just 7 points.
“He locked him up, and that was huge,” Pearl said.
Now Kentucky was the flailing team. The ball clanged off the backboard, and the Tigers were far more aggressive at plucking rebounds.
“They pressured us on defense,” said Washington, who led Kentucky with 28 points. “They tried to make all the catches hard, and they were boxing out and getting rebounds. They forced us to get one shot up and got back in transition and scored every time.”
Three balls, as the Tigers like to call their choice of shot, were hard to come by, so Auburn guards Jared Harper and Brown took the ball straight to the Wildcats. Brown looked as if he had been plucked from a 1950s highlight reel with pull-up midrange jumpers.
“I took what they gave me,” said Brown, who had 24 points. “We did this whole thing for Chuma, but we missed him. I knew I had to be big. No matter if I was going to go 0 for 20 or 20 for 20, I had to be big for my team.”
Harper, barely 5 feet 11 inches, slashed and slipped through the Kentucky defense at breakneck speed, scoring 12 points in overtime.
“It was a tough game, a tough fight,” said Harper, who finished with 26 points and was named the Midwest Region’s most outstanding player. “It’s a tribute to all my teammates and how hard we played this whole game. We stayed together to continue to do what we did.”
The Auburn Tigers are no longer overlooked. They are no longer mutts.
They go by a new name.
“When your kids play hard, play unselfishly and together,” Pearl said. “Obviously, they’re the Cinderellas of this tournament.”B:
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【谁】【曾】【看】【到】【那】【另】【一】【面】，【如】【此】【让】【人】【厌】【恶】【讨】【厌】。【谁】【知】【道】【小】【人】【物】【有】【多】【少】【心】【酸】，【他】【们】【有】【口】【难】【言】。【谁】【会】【怜】【悯】【无】【权】【之】【人】，【退】【让】【成】【了】【常】【态】。【这】【日】【子】【越】【来】【越】【无】【奈】，【越】【来】【越】【憔】【悴】。 【有】【些】【人】【太】【奸】【诈】，【玩】【弄】【着】【手】【中】【仅】【有】【的】【权】【利】，【还】【做】【出】【一】【副】【高】【高】【在】【上】【的】【表】【情】。【弱】【小】【的】【我】【们】【不】【敢】【直】【视】，【不】【敢】【反】【驳】，【只】【好】【沉】【默】。【他】【们】【一】【个】【个】【凶】【神】【恶】【煞】，【摧】【残】【着】【野】【草】【野】www.hk51678.com【一】【路】【有】【惊】【无】【险】，【凯】【撒】【带】【着】【手】【下】【的】【大】【军】，【没】【有】【受】【到】【任】【何】【阻】【拦】，【成】【功】【杀】【到】【了】【永】【恒】【之】【城】【的】【城】【下】。 【此】【刻】【的】【永】【恒】【之】【城】，【显】【然】【还】【没】【有】【做】【好】【迎】【接】【一】【场】【大】【战】【的】【准】【备】，【大】【军】【都】【杀】【到】【城】【门】【下】【了】，【城】【门】【仍】【然】【是】【打】【开】【着】，【好】【像】【是】【在】【迎】【接】【敌】【军】【的】【到】【来】【一】【样】。 “【凯】【撒】【来】【了】，【赶】【快】【关】【闭】【城】【门】，【不】【要】【让】【他】【们】【进】【来】。” 【永】【恒】【之】【城】【没】【有】【做】【好】【战】【斗】【的】【准】
【黑】【衣】【女】【子】【轻】【轻】【地】【笑】【着】，【显】【然】【是】【躲】【过】【了】【萧】【冰】【合】【的】【攻】【击】。 “【她】【在】【哪】【里】？”【萧】【冰】【合】【重】【复】【着】。 【他】【的】【声】【音】【低】【沉】，【蕴】【含】【着】【浓】【浓】【的】【杀】【气】。 【黑】【衣】【女】【子】【的】【话】【还】【没】【说】【完】，【萧】【冰】【合】【的】【身】【影】【突】【然】【出】【现】【在】【她】【面】【前】。 【她】【甚】【至】【没】【看】【清】【他】【是】【怎】【么】【出】【手】【的】，【人】【已】【经】【软】【软】【地】【倒】【了】【下】【去】。 【紧】【接】【着】，【从】【手】【臂】【开】【始】【冰】【冻】，【不】【到】【十】【秒】【钟】【时】【间】，【整】【个】【人】
【高】【阳】【公】【主】【许】【久】【未】【见】【过】【皇】【后】【叶】【氏】【了】，【如】【今】【为】【了】【姜】【茜】【的】【事】【情】【求】【上】【门】【来】，【乍】【一】【见】【叶】【氏】【竟】【有】【些】【认】【不】【出】。 【凤】【仪】【宫】【中】【陈】【设】【华】【美】【稳】【重】，【多】【用】【宝】【蓝】、【绛】【紫】，【处】【处】【带】【着】【一】【位】【一】【国】【之】【母】【应】【有】【的】【大】【气】【和】【端】【庄】。 【殿】【中】【燃】【着】【瑞】【麟】【香】，【叫】【高】【阳】【公】【主】【胸】【上】【有】【些】【闷】【闷】【的】，【那】【香】【炉】【是】【鎏】【金】【麒】【麟】【样】【式】【的】，【一】【双】【兽】【眼】【镶】【嵌】【着】【黄】【色】【宝】【石】，【沉】【沉】【的】【盯】【着】【这】【大】【殿】【中】