Iowa Basketball’s NCAA Tournament ends in first-round loss to Auburn

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. –Curiosity about whether Iowa’s NCAA Tournament opener would be played in front of a significantly pro-Auburn crowd at Legacy Arena was answered ahead of the opening denunciation.

A thunderous ovation greeted the Tigers as they took the floor, and patrons clad in orange and blue ensured that the Hawkeyes’ first-round challenge would be all the more difficult.

As Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde tweeted early in the game, Auburn “had the biggest home-court advantage in the history of the No. 9 seed.”

The two teams played each other to the end on Thursday evening.  Here, Auburn's KD Johnson comes down to Iowa's Filip Rebraca in the second half.

And with every second-half 3-pointer the suddenly hot Tigers canned, it proved true. The momentum gave a 17-point advantage in the second half, and Auburn held on to oust the eighth-seeded Hawkeyes, 83-75, in a Midwest Region opener.

Iowa finished its season with three straight losses and a 19-14 record. His last victory of the season dates back to February 28 in Bloomington, Indiana. In other words, the Hawkeyes went 0 for March.

More:Join Chad Leistikow’s Iowa Hawkeyes text messaging group here

And with that, Iowa’s Sweet 16 drought is extended to 24 seasons, 13 of those under Fran McCaffery. Ninety-five programs have reached the regional finals since the Hawkeyes last appeared in 1999, and that number could increase by this weekend.

Auburn (21-12) moved closer to their own Sweet 16 offer under former Hawkeye assistant Bruce Pearl. The Tigers’ blistering start was replaced by a scorching second half in which they scored 16 points in under 2½ minutes to create a 58-41 advantage with 10:50 to go.

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