Postgame: Auburn’s Bruce Pearl, Jared Harper, Bryce Brown, at the Final Four

uva basketball bear creekTHE MODERATOR: We’re joined now by Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl and student-athletes Jared Harper and Bryce Brown. We’ll ask Coach Pearl to give us a couple of opening thoughts and then take questions for the student-athletes.

BRUCE PEARL: I want to congratulate Virginia on a great victory and advancing to the championship game. We knew we were playing against a great team with a great defensive scheme, made it very difficult for us, but we’ve got incredible character and heart and belief. These guys have overcome adversity all year long. They’ve been doubted all year long. We’re just disappointed that we’re not going to get a chance to work tonight and tomorrow and have a chance to play for a championship.

I’m very, very proud of these two guys right here, who are — I don’t know whether the best backcourt in the country. That doesn’t matter. But I wouldn’t trade either one of them for any backcourt in the country.

THE MODERATOR: We’ll take questions for the student-athletes.

Q. For Bryce and Jared, what were your thoughts on that last foul call, and what did you all think as they were trying to figure out what the call was?
THE MODERATOR: We’ll ask Bryce to take that first, followed by Jared.

BRYCE BROWN: I just didn’t think it was a foul, but the refs thought otherwise. Can’t go back and rewind it so —

JARED HARPER: I would just say that I think it was a tough call, but that’s not where we lost the game, I don’t think.

Q. This is for both Jared or Bryce. Obviously, you’re down ten with five minutes to go. You go on a remarkable tear. You take a two-point lead. At that point, what’s being said in the huddle, what are you saying to each other in an attempt to close out the game, obviously?
BRYCE BROWN: We just — all season long, we’ve been through a lot of adversity, and Coach does a good job of just keeping us together. Me and Jared do a good job of keeping the guys together. We’ve been down like that before, and I think it’s just staying together, somebody stepping up and just letting everybody know, no matter what happens, don’t go off and do your own thing.

I feel like, at the end of the day in the game, we stayed together. That’s why we were able to make that run.

JARED HARPER: I just think that those last — when we were down ten, we just figured we had to get stops. We had to find a way to get stops. We didn’t start the second half that well defensively. We let them do what they wanted. Being able to climb back in the game and get in that position was great for us, but of course we feel we could have finished with a different result.

Q. Bryce, obviously, a tough situation, but what were the emotions like when it seemed like you guys thought you had won the game and then hearing of the foul call?
BRYCE BROWN: We kind of thought we had it sealed. I mean, it just came down to that last possession. It’s not where we lost the game, like Jared said, but it was a significant part where I just didn’t agree with the call. Can’t say too much about that.

Q. Bryce and Jared, obviously a disappointing loss. There’s such a fine line between winning and losing, but after a few days of recovery and reflecting back on this season, what positives are you both going to take going forward in the development of your game and into next season?
BRYCE BROWN: Like I said, I feel like all season long, we went through a lot of adversity. There’s been a lot of times we could have given up as a team, and the season could have went downhill easily. You know the guys, we trusted in the coaches. We trusted in what we do. We never change what we do, and we stay true to ourselves and continue to just trust each other the whole season.

I wouldn’t have rather did it with any other guys, any other coaches in the nation. Truthfully, I feel like we have the best players, best coaches.

It’s been family all my four years, and I wouldn’t trade this team for nothing.

JARED HARPER: Like you said, we battled through a lot of adversity this year. We definitely grew a lot as a team, even individually, just trusting one another. I think that’s where we did a good job coming towards the end of the year. We played a great end of the season, a great March, coming into the Final Four. I feel like we still played good tonight, but it was a tough loss.

Q. This is for Jared. Played down the stretch, you’re down ten. Jerome has the ball trying to post you up. Can you take us through that sequence? You did not score, and then he fouled on the way back up the court. It seemed like a turning point, fourth foul for him. Can you take us through that sequence? Did it seem like he was frustrated at that point?
JARED HARPER: I was thinking I had to make plays defensively, do the job. I wasn’t scoring the ball as well tonight, so I felt like I had to impact the game another way, that being on the defensive end. He had a great game tonight, so when I was able to step in front of him, I was just trying to limit it and make it as hard as I could for him.

THE MODERATOR: We’d like to thank Bryce and Jared for joining us here in the main interview room. Congratulations, you guys, on a great season.

Questions for Coach Pearl, please raise your hand.

Q. Coach, this is obviously a heartbreaking loss for your program. What words did you tell your guys following a loss like this and efforts to kind of lift their spirits?
BRUCE PEARL: I asked them, would we have trusted God any more in victory than we would trust Him in defeat, in the sense that He carried us all the way here all season long and put so much blessing upon us.

So this is what the plan was, and let’s handle the defeat like with dignity and with class. Let’s give the opponent credit. Virginia shot 56, 57 percent the second half. Offensively, they played really well and scored and knocked down shots, and as a result, they’re still playing.

Q. Bruce, did you see Ty Jerome and the double dribble? Did you think in that moment that it was a missed call?
BRUCE PEARL: We were in a situation late where we had some fouls to give, and I knew there was a disruption there. You’ve just got to get on to the next play.

Q. Tony was just out talking about after last year, how he made Ty and Kyle come up and face the media after their loss. Is this something you talked with Jared and the other guys that are coming back, where this is something we can build on? We have a lot of talent still in the locker room, and you have a program that can continue to compete next year and into the future?
BRUCE PEARL: Yeah, I think that for us, I thought that we looked like we belonged. We were — we weren’t supposed to be here. We weren’t supposed to have a chance to win — or maybe had a chance to win, but unlikely.

Just like we have done all year long, even when we got down, there was still time on the clock, and there were points to be scored, rebounds to be had, and I thought our kids made a lot of plays, a lot of plays to be able to win the game.

So this will be a memorable game, and I’d like it to be remembered for a great game. Let’s not remember this game because of just how it ended. Let’s remember two teams that played really hard that only had 13 turnovers combined, didn’t shoot it very well because there was great defense. It had nothing to do with the sight lines or the rims. We missed a lot of threes. We missed some open shots, but we played against a great defense. It was a great college basketball game.

Q. Bruce, despite what you said, I have to ask you, what was your view of the last call, and what did you tell Samir in the locker room afterward?
BRUCE PEARL: We didn’t focus on that. We focused on how we were going to handle the defeat at Auburn, with class and dignity. There are lots of calls during the game, and you’re going to get some, and some you’re not going to get.

My advice, as an administrator of the game, is if that’s a foul, call it. Call it at the beginning of the game, call it in the middle of the game, call it at the end of the game. Don’t call it any more or less at any other time during the game. That was the call.

But it won’t — it can’t define — don’t let it define the game because then you’re taking away from Ty Jerome or you’re taking away from Anfernee McLemore with 12 rebounds, or Bryce Brown almost leading Auburn back to an incredible come-from-behind victory. I’d love that to be the story.

THE MODERATOR: We’d like to thank Coach Pearl for joining us here in the main interview room. Coach, congrats on a great season and a great run.


Augusta Free Press coverage of the 2019 postseason is presented by Bear Creek. Serving Waynesboro, Charlottesville, Harrisonburg and surrounding communities, Bear Creek provides a hassle-free process to help homeowners create outdoor living spaces that bring people together. Schedule a consultation at BearCreek.co.
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The book, with additional reporting by Zach Pereles, Scott Ratcliffe and Scott German, will take you from the aftermath of the stunning first-round loss to UMBC in 2018, and how coach Tony Bennett and his team used that loss as the source of strength, through to the ACC regular-season championship, the run to the Final Four, and the thrilling overtime win over Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title, the first in school history.
 
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