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'This one will sting until November': Steven Pearl recaps Auburn's loss to Yale, defends Chad Baker-Mazara

Justin Hokansonby:Justin Hokanson03/26/24


AUBURN — Auburn basketball associate head coach Steven Pearl was candid and honest about the Tigers’ upset loss to Yale in the first round of the NCAA Tournament during an interview with The Next Round on Tuesday.

“This one will sting until November of next year until we play our next game,” Pearl said. “There’s no way to sugarcoat that. We’re sick about it. It’s not something that we were expecting and at no point in that game did I expect we were going to lose that game.

“This is going to suck the entire offseason and it should suck the entire offseason. We’re not supposed to lose that game. Hopefully it’s something that can drive our guys to have some motivation this offseason to have something to prove next year and fuel that fire.”


4-seed Auburn led 13-seed Yale 68-58 with a little over seven minutes remaining in the game before committing six late-game turnovers and hitting just three shots down the stretch. Auburn shot 2-7 from the free throw line late, all while Yale scored 10 points from the free-throw line and won 78-76 after two last-second shots from the Tigers missed.

Pearl said he received text messages following the loss, but it was tough to wade through them all following the emotions of the season ending.

“I see everything. It takes me a couple of days to get back to them because I’m a highly emotional person and I don’t want to say things I don’t necessarily mean,” Pearl said. “For anyone that’s wondering, it’s always good to reach out. When we won the SEC Championship, I had 400 text messages. When we lost, I had 40. It’s always good, but people just don’t know what to say. I got back to everyone on Sunday that reached out. I have a hard time putting into words where I’m at. I let it settle and when I’m more level-headed, get back to everybody.”

Pearl defends Chad Baker-Mazara

Obviously a major factor in Auburn losing the game was the ejection of Chad Baker-Mazara just a few minutes into the game. Pearl addressed some of the vitriol that was directed towards Baker-Mazara on social media after the game, defending Baker-Mazara and confirming what Auburn Live talked about on Sunday night on The Corner message board, which is that Baker-Mazara is fully expected to be a part of the program moving forward.

“No one feels worse about what happened than Chad Baker. The kid was in absolute tears for three days following the game. He apologized to his teammates. We had meetings the day we got home and one of the questions as asking about Chad, and they said he’s apologized to us six or seven times separately because he feels so bad. We don’t win 27 games, we don’t win a SEC championship without Chad, he’s that big a of a piece to our team,” Pearl said.

“We beat Yale by 20 points if Chad is in that game. I don’t want to dance around that. I’m not trying to disrespect Yale, we’re way better than them. And we should have beat them without him. With Chad, he’s one of our best play-making guards and half our offensive game plan goes out the window when he’s not in the game.”

Auburn was called for 25 fouls in the game. It was the most fouls called against any team in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. More fouls were called in the Spokane region than any other region in the first round of the tournament. And of all the officials that moved on to officiate in the second weekend of the tournament, the only crew that didn’t see at least one member move on to the second weekend of games was the crew that officiated the Auburn-Yale game.

“It’s incredibly frustrating because you look at the incident and the possession before, Chad gets hit in the throat on the way down. It’s contact close to the neck and face, which is why he retaliated, but he shouldn’t have retaliated,” Pearl said. “Chad is old enough and smart enough to know, especially how he’s been targeted this year, he has to keep his cool. Chad should have fallen down immediately when that kid hit him in the neck and they go look at the monitor, and that kid maybe gets a Flagrant 1. They didn’t see that, and they didn’t go back and look at it. They just saw Chad going at the kid.”

Pearl said “people in the officiating community” the Auburn staff has spoken with have said Baker-Mazara should have received a Flagrant 1 foul, not a Flagrant 2.

“They made the wrong decision kicking Chad out of the game,” Pearl said.

“But for any Auburn fans listening, no one feels worse about what happened than Chad Baker. He’s one of the best kids to be around, he’s a great teammate, he’s emotional and that’s something that Chad has to work on, but that’s all of us. We all have flaws and things we have to work through to get better at what we do. Chad recognizes that and he’s going to get help for it. If they are Auburn fans and are hating on Chad and have that strong of opinions, then don’t watch us anymore. Chad Baker is an unbelievable young man who we love to death and we want him to be a big part of our program moving forward.”

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