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Bruce Pearl
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — After a teammate passed up an open layup that could have tied the game, New Mexico State‘s Terrell Brown was fouled behind the arc and missed two of three free throws as the Aggies dropped a 78-77 heartbreaker Thursday to fifth-seeded Auburn in the NCAA Tournament.

The Aggies were trailing 78-76 in the opening round of the Midwest Region when guard A.J. Harris had his defender beat and looked to be headed to the glass for the tying bucket. He instead lobbed out to Brown, who was spotted up at the elbow for a possible game-winner.

Brown missed but was fouled with 1.1 seconds left.

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With Auburn’s J’von McCormick grabbing his throat as Harris toed the line, Brown missed the first, made the second, then watched the third one rim out.

Auburn (27-9) knocked the ball out of bounds on the rebound and New Mexico State had one more good look, but Trevelin Queen’s 3 at the buzzer was an air ball.

McCormick’s three-point play gave the Tigers a 73-65 lead with 2:13 left, and this one looked like it was over.

But the Aggies (30-5), helped by their own good shooting and Auburn’s sloppiness, kept chipping away and drew within 77-76 with 6.8 seconds left.

Auburn’s Samir Doughty made one of two from the line to set up the last-second drama, and this one will be second-guessed down in Las Cruces for a long time. Harris clearly had a step on the defender and was heading to the glass. But he passed on the tie and gave Brown, who was 0 for 4 from 3, the chance for the win.

3-POINT BRIGADE

Auburn had attempted 1,052 3-pointers this season — third most in the country — before the game and kept it going. All but two of Auburn’s six field goals over the final 11 minutes were from 3, and one of those resulted in McCormick’s three-point play. The Tigers went 12 for 31 from behind the arc. Jared Harper made all four of his in the second half and led Auburn with 17 points.

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