Publish date:

Chuma Okeke Injury Brings Auburn Coach Bruce Pearl to Tears During Postgame Interview

Okeke exited the Sweet 16 game against UNC with a double-double of 20 points and 11 rebounds.

Auburn forward Chuma Okeke went down with 8:08 remaining in the second half of the No. 5 Tigers’ 97–80 upset of No. 1 seed North Carolina with a left knee injury.

Okeke crashed to the floor after colliding with UNC's Cameron Johnson under the rim. He was seen grabbing his left knee before being helped off the court and into the locker room. Auburn announced that Okeke would not return to the game and was being taken for X-rays.

Several members of Roy Williams's team checked in on Okeke as he exited the game. 

The 6'8" sophomore led Auburn with 20 points, 11 boards, two steals and a block before leaving the game. Okeke's injury brought Auburn coach Bruce Pearl to tears during his postgame interview when discussing his star player's performance and his early exit.

"Chuma was the best player on the floor," an emotional Pearl said. "He's hurt, but we're going to rally. I'll go hug on him."

SI Recommends

Pearl confirmed to reporters after the game that it was Okeke's knee that was hurt.

"It's a knee injury," he said. "We don't know the extent, but we think it could be serious."

Okeke leads the Tigers in rebounds at 6.7 per game and steals (1.8), sits second in blocks (1.2) and third in points at 11.8 while shooting 48.8% and contributing 52 threes at a 38% clip this season.

"I'm really proud of our team," Okeke told reporters. "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."

Left knee wrapped in ice, Okeke stamped the Tigers' spot in the Elite Eight on the official bracket after the game.

Auburn will face the winner of No. 2 Kentucky vs. No. 3 Houston on Sunday.