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March 21, 2019

Bruce Pearl

J'Von McCormick

Jared Harper

Salt Lake City, Utah

Auburn - 78, New Mexico State - 77

THE MODERATOR: Let's open it up to a brief opening statement from Coach Pearl from Auburn.

BRUCE PEARL: I want to congratulate New Mexico State, Coach Chris Jans on an outstanding season. His team plays like he coaches. No fear, they're well coached. They play together. They're relentless on the boards. And I told my team that the toughest one for us to win was probably going to be the first one. The next game, the team will play Kansas or Northeastern, are not better than New Mexico State, they're as good. A great compliment to New Mexico State.

Our kids worked hard to build that lead and we did not do a great job of taking care of the ball, but giving New Mexico State credit for pushing us to the limit.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Jared, every time they made a run in the second half, you came up with the big shot. Same in the SEC Championship. Talk us through it.
JARED HARPER: I started to shoot the ball well. I was able to get a lay-up early in the second half, that helped my confidence, and I think I hit my first three to start the second half. Being able to make plays, my teammates trusting me, so that's all.

Q. What was the atmosphere like at the end of the game in the final minute of an intense NCAA first-round match-up?
JARED HARPER: Like the coach said before, the first game was going to be the hardest game. We made some plays down the stretch that didn't help us, we made a lot of mistakes. I made a couple of mistakes, a couple of turnovers, bad foul situation at the end and getting myself out of the game.

So I'm glad my teammates bailed me out.

Q. You were flashing the choke gesture in those last free throws. Were you hoping to get the free-throw shooter's attention there?
J'VON McCORMICK: I saw in his face he was pretty scared. We knew coming in they were a bad free-throwing team so that was the key.

Q. Can you describe the Auburn swagger for me?
J'VON McCORMICK: I feel like -- I don't know. I really can't tell you.

Q. (Off microphone.)
J'VON McCORMICK: We all got a chip on our shoulder, so we come out with that swag, yeah.

THE MODERATOR: We'll dismiss the student-athletes and then direct questions to Coach Pearl.

BRUCE PEARL: Can I follow up on that swagger? I'm glad you think we have a swagger. But I think the hesitation in answering the question is because I'm not so sure our kids do in this sense. He came back with it. He says, We got a chip on our shoulder. J'Von was not a heavily-recruited player. Most of our guys were three starts. So we've developed a confidence and a trust in one another and our depth as the season progressed. I don't know that we really have a swagger. Yet.

Q. Bruce, how agonizing for you was that last few minutes of that game? Have you ever been involved in anything quite that preposterous?
BRUCE PEARL: The only time I can remember almost losing it like that was when we did lose it Jared's freshman year against Missouri the first round of the SEC tournament. And it was kind of unfolding the same way.

No matter how many times you practice your spacing and what you want to do in those situations, until you get in that moment, you don't know how you're going to react. We obviously panicked and made our share of mistakes which could have cost us the game. At the same time, we made enough really good plays throughout the game against a really good team.

That's a really good 5-12 win for Auburn because that New Mexico State team is formidable. I don't want to do it again, though. (Laughter.)

Q. Coach, on that final sequence, you know they were going to look for a lob towards the basket. Your defense did a great job of forcing the kickout and a wild three. Was that the plan, tuck it in the middle and force a long jumper?
BRUCE PEARL: Again, Chris did a great job with that call. Thinking 1.7, we got to protect the rim. They have some good lob things in there so I put my center, one of my centers on the ball. I actually played two centers; one to protect the rim. But we did not switch out on the ball side shooter and so that was a mistake and they got a clean look and could have knocked it down.

We got a good test and we're fortunate.

Q. Do you take anything from this game and apply it to the next round?
BRUCE PEARL: Could you repeat that?

Q. Do you take anything from this game and apply it to the next round?
BRUCE PEARL: This was our fifth game in eight days. Stop and think about that. Our fifth game in eight days. It looked like it. Bryce was tired, Jared was exhausted at the end of that game. So I think what I'm going to take away is we're going to be fresher. Horace is the energy bunny out there, this is his fifth game in eight days. He didn't have a ton of energy. We played Sunday. We traveled all across the country. We had to play hard because of the way New Mexico State plays. Our kids were popped at the end.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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