It was a wild finish that nearly resulted in the first big upset of the 2019 NCAA Tournament.
But the sequence, which saw New Mexico State guard AJ Harris pass up a wide-open layup to tie the game in the closing seconds by choosing to pass to Terrell Brown for a potential game-winning 3-pointer, didn’t pan out for the Aggies.
Brown was fouled, missed two free throws and the second miss resulted in one last shot for New Mexico to upset SEC tournament champion Auburn. The Tigers eked out the 78-77 victory in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Head coach Chris Jans, though, wasn’t about to second-guess the decisions of his players in his postgame press conference.
“I have trusted my guys to make great decisions, and we have,” Jans told reporters after the game. “We have won a lot of games, just like this game unfolded, we won a lot of games where the ball was in AJ Harris’s hand or Terrell Brown’s hand and the clock was running down and we made the final shot.”
He continued by referencing the decision that paid off for Ali Farokhmanesh when the former Northern Iowa player dropped a 3-pointer with 35 seconds left in a 2010 upset of No. 1-seeded Kansas.
Northern Iowa only led by one point at the time of Farokhmanesh’s shot, and there were no Northern Iowa players under the basket for any potential rebounding opportunity had he missed.
“Right now, you can sit up here and second-guess his decision to kick it out to Terrell Brown instead of trying to lay the ball in,” Jans said. “And, you know, obviously at that point, it is out of your control and you have to trust your players and players make plays. If he does make all three free throws or makes the three, it is an Ali Farokhmanesh moment and that will be remembered forever. That’s what happens in the NCAA tournament.”
“I trust my players, players make plays, and it didn’t work out for us this particular time.”