NASHVILLE, Tenn. – There’s cool, and then there’s cold-blooded. Jared Harper is cold-blooded. The Auburn point guard knocked down a clutch 3 in the closing seconds to lead the Tigers past Florida and seal their first trip to the SEC tournament finals since 2000.
At the time of the shot, Auburn was clinging to a one-point lead. The shot clock and game clock were both running down, and there was Harper – calm, cool and collected as he dribbled out the clock waiting to make his move. Depending on what the defender did, he was either going to drive past him or pull up. When he got just enough space, he stepped into a 3 and buried it.
“During the actual play, I was looking to attack the basket,” Harper said. “With a couple seconds left on the shot clock, I was going to try to get to the rim and see if I could create something for myself or somebody else. The defender backed up, I got a good look and made it.”
The lead went to four with 12 seconds left. Florida responded with a quick two, but after Harper knocked down one of two free throws, a last-second heave from the Gators fell short.
For Harper, the dagger 3 was his first basket of the second half. However, the junior carried Auburn in the first half with 16 points on 6 of 8 shooting, including 4 of 5 from beyond the arc. He finished with a game-high 20 points and added four steals and two assists.
“(Harper) continues to show why he shouldn’t have been left off the Bob Cousy list for best point guards in the country,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said. “I grew up in Boston. Bob Cousy was not a big man, but he had amazing courage and was a tremendous leader. More than anything, he was a winner. Jared will go out every night, and he’ll be challenged. I trust that he will give it everything he has.”
“I feel like we have accomplished something, but our goal was to win the SEC tournament,” Harper said. “We have done a lot, but we want to finish our goal. We want to get the ring. We want to cut the nets. We want to win this championship.”
Sunday’s final will tip off at noon CT and will be televised on ESPN.