There was plenty of debate about the final seconds of Auburn’s nail-biter 78-77 victory over New Mexico State in the opening round of the NCAA tournament Thursday.
Should New Mexico State have taken an almost sure layup to tie the score instead of trying for a three-pointer? And how could favored Auburn make so many mistakes at the end?
But another element of that wild finish might have been overlooked — a choke sign.
Just to reset, New Mexico State trailed by two when guard A.J. Harris dribbled past Auburn’s J’Von McCormick for an open lane to the basket. Rather than take the high-percentage shot, he passed to teammate Terrell Brown behind the arc.
Brown missed the three-point attempt but was fouled and awarded three free throws.
As he stood at the line, McCormick flashed the choke sign at him. The Auburn guard smiled when asked about it later.
“I saw in his face he was pretty scared,” McCormick said of Brown. “We knew coming in they were a bad free-throwing team so that was the key.”
Brown missed two of three.
McCormick was asked if his team might have a bit of swagger.
“We all got a chip on our shoulder,” he said. “So we come out with that swag, yeah.”