Auburn’s thrilling upset of top-seeded North Carolina in the Sweet 16 was marred a devastating knee injury to Tigers sophomore forward Chuma Okeke.
Okeke was in the middle of a breakout game when his left knee buckled as he was driving to the basket. You can watch the injury here, but fair warning: it’s gruesome. Okeke — who was already considered Auburn’s best NBA prospect and a fringe first round draft pick — ended the night with 20 points and 11 rebounds.
When Auburn coach Bruce Pearl was asked about the injury after the game, he immediately started crying. Pearl’s tears were a moving moment after arguably the biggest win of his career.
UNC players rushed to hug and console Okeke after the injury
Auburn players rallied around Okeke in the locker room
Auburn also gave Okeke the honor of placing the team name on the symbolic bracket
After the game, Okeke released a statement through the team.
A statement from @AuburnMBB Chuma Okeke:
“I’m really proud of our team. We were able to make history tonight. We do not drop off when we go to our bench and we’ll be ready for whoever we play on Sunday.”
Bruce Pearl fears it’s a “serious injury”. Further evaluation tomorrow.
— Jamie Erdahl Buckman (@JamieErdahl) March 30, 2019
This is a devastating injury. Get well soon, Chuma.