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Making sense of the bonkers Auburn-New Mexico State ending

For The Win logo For The Win 3/21/2019 Andrew Joseph

Video by CBS Sports

The first slate of Thursday's NCAA tournament games looked to be a trio of duds. Minnesota controlled its game against Louisville. LSU held off a late charge from Yale, but never really had a reason to worry. And Auburn looked to be cruising to a win against WAC champion and No. 12 seed New Mexico State.

Then, the game went completely off the rails.

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Auburn held a nine-point lead with just over four minutes to go, and protected the ball well for much of the game. The Tigers had no turnovers for the first 14 minutes of the second half. Then, suddenly, they couldn't protect the ball at all.

Auburn turned the ball over six times in the final 6.5 minutes of the game as the Aggies took advantage to come within a point. It was a blistering comeback, and Auburn was on its heels (and forgetting basic basketball strategy).

The collapse bordered on comedic levels.

Plenty of coaches prefer to foul up three points in late-game situations, forcing the opponent to hit a clutch free throw and then try to miss and rebound the second rather than just giving them an attempt from 3-point range. But you don't want to foul with 15 seconds to go. That's way too much time. And you certainly don't want to foul if you're Auburn's most important player, Jared Harper, and playing with four fouls.

Harper, uh, did that with the Tigers up three and 15 seconds to go. And fouled out … intentionally.

The Aggies would split the pair, foul and this time find themselves down four points. Auburn gave JoJo Zamora an excellent look from 3, and he drained the shot to bring NMSU within one. We could feel something brewing.

At this point, the meltdown appeared imminent. It was going to happen. Charles Barkley was melting down and looking for things to throw in the studio. It was a glorious collapse. This was everything great about March.

And amazingly, there was still more craziness to unfold.

The Aggies had the ball with six seconds remaining and down two points. They could tie or go for the win, and it was clear that the win was the only thing on A.J. Harris' mind because he turned down a WIDE OPEN layup to kick out for 3. And guess what: Auburn fouled the shooter!

Ahhhh! I can't anymore. This game.

The out-of-this-world-inexcusable foul by Bryce Brown put Terrell Brown at the line for what had to be the most nerve-wracking experience imaginable. The 78 percent foul shooter had a chance to make three free throws and win. He ended up going 1 of 3 with the final miss going out of play with a second remaining.

The Aggies retained possession and would have a baseline out-of-bounds look for the win. And they got a great look. The kind of look you dream about in March. Trevelin Queen was ready for his One Shining Moment.

The problem was that he was a bit too juiced up for his open look from 3 and sent the shot sailing long by five feet.

After ALL OF THAT, Auburn survived. The Tigers won, 78-77. And Bruce Pearl probably needs his blood pressure checked. I know I do.

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