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Dream season ends with second round loss

All season, Bruce Pearl and the Auburn Tigers have been proving doubters wrong. They did it when Chuck Person was arrested in relation to an FBI investigation. They did it when Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy were indefinitely suspended. And they did it when Anfernee McLemore suffered a season ending ankle injury and shrunk the number of scholarship players to eight. But in Sunday night's round of 32 game against Clemson, Auburn finally ran out of gas.

Auburn had suffered a rough close to the season, losing four of their last six games headed into the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers managed to win their first game of the tournament, defeating the 13 seed College of Charleston 62-58. Auburn was ice cold shooting the ball, shooting just 35 percent from the floor and 20 percent from the three point line. But Auburn's best players stepped up when they were needed the most.

Trailing by two with just over two minutes left, Bryce Brown hit a three pointer to give Auburn a one point lead, and with the game tied a minute later, Jared Harper hit his first basket of the game to put the Tigers over the top for good.

Two days later, Auburn's season ended with an 84-53 loss to Clemson. Early on, Auburn appeared to be shooting the ball better. Midway through the first half, Auburn trailed by only three, but from then on, Auburn missed their next 18 shots from the floor, and at halftime Clemson led 43-19. In the second half, Auburn kept pace with Clemson, but was unable to cut in to the massive lead the Tigers built in the first half.

Auburn shot just 25 percent from the floor, their worst of the season, while going 8 of 25 from behind the three point line. Point guard Jared Harper tied a season-low in points with five and forward Desean Murray went scoreless for the first time in his Auburn career.

And while the Clemson loss was disappointing, it was hardly surprising. This is an Auburn team that has taken blow after blow to the roster. The few scholarship players that remain have been forced into larger roles and more minutes. Eventually exhaustion takes over and two games in three days was too much for this team at the end of a long season.

But there is still reason for excitement. Auburn will return the entire core of their lineup in 2019. Anfernee McLemore will also be back healthy from his ankle injury, not to mention the potential return of Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy once their suspensions are up. The future is bright for Auburn basketball and 2018 was just the beginning.

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