Auburn’s locker room remained closed for about 40 minutes after its 63-62 loss to Virginia on Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
That 40 minutes was enough to cry and then wipe away the tears, and by the time dozens of reporters were allowed to enter, there were several dry faces.
But their eyes gave them away.
The blood-filled lines that turn the whites of the eyes red to accompany tears were evident in several faces, and even in assistant Steven Pearl, who also couldn’t stifle a few sniffles as he spoke.
“We didn’t lose that game,” Pearl said. “We ran out of time, plain and simple.”
Right before it ran out of time, Auburn endured being on the wrong end of a controversial foul call, one that will linger among its fans for years. With 0.6 seconds left, official James Breeding ruled that Virginia’s Kyle Guy was fouled by Auburn’s Samir Doughty as Guy shot a potential game-winning three-pointer from the left corner.
The clock hit zero and Tigers fans thought they had won, only to find out otherwise. After Guy sank all three free throws for the victory, some fans threw things, including pompons, at the officials as they ran off the court. The players had to deal with the heartbreak.
Afterward, no player blamed the officials for the loss. Not even Doughty, who calmly answered each question asked of him.
“I definitely felt we deserved a better result, but it’s not always going to be like that,” said Doughty, who had 13 points.
Added forward Horace Spencer: “It’s sad to say they took that from us, kind of. But … we can’t let that happen again. We can’t let that come that close.”
Doughty said he didn’t think he had fouled Guy and that he wanted to see a replay before forming a more solid opinion.
“They missed some calls and they made some calls,” Doughty said. “That’s why they’re reffing the Final Four, because they’re the best of the best. You have to trust the decisions they make on the floor.”
J.D. Collins, the national coordinator of officiating, released a statement saying it was a foul, that Doughty violated Guy’s vertical plane in violation of Rule 4, Section 39i. Collins’ statement did not address what appeared to be a double-dribble from Virginia’s Ty Jerome with 1.5 seconds left before Auburn’s Bryce Brown used the Tigers’ last foul to give.
Doughty and other Auburn players mostly pleaded ignorance after the game, saying they didn’t notice the call in real time, nor had they seen a replay. It wouldn’t have consoled them anyway.
“I just remind Samir we had no chance of being in that game if you don’t play the way you play off the bench … ” Pearl said. “It didn’t come down to one play. There’s 20 other plays that happened throughout the game that we didn’t execute that had just as big an influence as that one.”
But none of them hurt as much.