Auburn stunner: 13-seed Yale takes down Tigers

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SPOKANE, Wash. — John Poulakidas scored 28 points, Samson Aletan made a key block during a wild scramble in the final seconds, and 13th-seeded Yale rallied in the final five minutes to take down No. 4 seed Auburn 78-76 in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Friday.

For the second straight year, the Ivy League Tournament champion took down one of the pre-tournament favorites — busting plenty of March Madness brackets once again.

Last year it was Princeton toppling Arizona. This time, it was Yale’s turn.

“Princeton made the Sweet 16 last year and we were at home, they beat us in the championship, and each and every one of the guys in the locker room were just itching to get our opportunity,” Yale’s August Mahoney said. “Our opportunity presented itself. We know how good we are, so we believed.”

The Bulldogs (23-9) won an NCAA tournament game for just the second time in school history, rallying from a 10-point deficit midway through the second half. After the final seconds ticked off, the players celebrated on the scorer’s table in front of their fans.

Yale will face No. 5 seed San Diego State in the second round on Sunday.

“It’s a great opportunity to be here. I think after I hit my first couple shots, obviously the flood gates opened,” Poulakidas said. “But I’m just so glad that we had this opportunity first and could capitalize on it tonight.”

Poulakidas hit big shot after big shot. His step-back 3-pointer with 2:10 left gave the Bulldogs a 73-72 lead. Yale never trailed again, despite a chaotic final stretch that included Auburn getting off two shots in the closing seconds following a missed free throw, one of which was rejected by Aletan.

Auburn’s K.D. Johnson had a contested look for a winning 3-pointer at the buzzer that was offline.

Johni Broome led Auburn (27-8) with 24 points and 13 rebounds, but was crumpled on the court after the loss. It looked as if he might have injured his right knee in the final scrum.

Auburn rolled through the SEC Tournament last week and became a favored pick as a team that could take down No. 1 overall seed UConn should the pair end up clashing in the Sweet 16.

But the Tigers failed to get out the first round and joined fellow SEC schools South Carolina, Kentucky, Florida and Mississippi State amid the early departures from March Madness.

Auburn led 68-58 with 7:27 left after Denver Jones hit a 3-pointer, but the Tigers were outscored 20-8 the rest of the way. Auburn did itself no favors by missing five free throws in the final 3½ minutes.

Yale’s rally started with a 3-pointer from Bez Mbeng, a 24% shooter from beyond the arc this season. Poulakidas hit a couple of jumpers and Danny Wolf’s free throws pulled Yale even at 70.

Broome scored for Auburn but Poulakidas answered with his 3 and the Bulldogs made 5 of 6 free throws in the final minute.

August Mahoney added 14 points and Wolf finished with 13 before fouling out late.

Jones scored 17 for Auburn and Jaylin Williams added 13, but the Tigers played nearly the entire game without wing Chad Baker-Mazara after he was ejected for a flagrant foul 2 in the opening minutes of the game. Replays showed that Baker-Mazara appeared to throw an elbow toward Mahoney as the pair ran downcourt and officials had a lengthy review before announcing the ejection.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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