Bruce Pearl didn’t shy away from the impact of Chad Baker-Mazara’s early ejection following Auburn’s stunning loss to Yale in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Baker-Mazara was assessed a Flagrant 2 foul and tossed just 3 minutes into Friday’s game with Yale. The Auburn starter elbowed a player from Yale as the Tigers were bringing the ball up the court.

Pearl let the media know that he didn’t approve of the ruling. He stressed how the foul played a part in the ending of the game. The call was big because of how Auburn had already committed multiple fouls at that point as well.

“We were in foul trouble from the very beginning. Obviously, the decision to Flagrant 2, Chad Baker, that’s a pretty tough call. He had got hit about 5 seconds earlier, got tangled up, got a little bit of an elbow, they let it go, maybe nobody saw it, and about five seconds later Chad hit him,” Pearl said. “It was inappropriate. Clearly a Flagrant 1. The fact that it was elevated to a Flagrant 2 was a decision that the official had to make, but it obviously had a tremendous impact on the outcome.”

Baker-Mazara entered the game third on Auburn in scoring, averaging 10.3 points per game. He has also embraced his role as one of the team’s primary instigators and energy creators.

“Chad is one of our best players, he’s one of our very best playmakers, and was a huge part of our gameplan, so to lose him in that situation was really, really disruptive to our team on both ends of the floor.” Pearl said.

The decision forced the Tigers to change up their plan of attack before anyone really broke a sweat. Auburn needed certain players like Denver Jones, Chris Moore, and K.D. Johnson to spend more time on the floor than normal.

“It was huge. … We needed that other guard out there offensively,” Pearl said. “Denver was a little bit under the weather. He had to play through that. So he wound up playing more minutes under the weather. Chris Moore had to play more minutes. KD had to play more minutes. We just weren’t as deep or as fresh. I don’t think they — I think they took a shot at Chad. They hit him and he retaliated. Can’t retaliate. But they hit him first.”

Pearl was told by the officiating crew that Baker-Mazara was deemed to have acted intentionally. By the letter of the law, the officiating crew viewed it as a Flagrant 2. Pearl disagreed.

“It was a Flagrant 1,” Pearl said. “How many Flagrant 2s are there in games versus Flagrant 1s? That would be a good discussion. Let’s just say, of all the flagrants in my experience, 90% may be 1s. Maybe. Ten percent (Flagrant 2s). Tough to get here after all year long. I don’t even know if we had a Flagrant 2 all year.”

Auburn was a 13.5-point favorite entering the game, via FanDuel. Yale became the second double-digit dog to upset an SEC team in as many days following Kentucky’s loss to Oakland on Thursday. After winning the SEC Tournament, Auburn was hoping for a longer stay at the NCAA Tournament. Instead, Pearl is left with nothing but questions.