It was quite the homecoming for Rylan Jones.

His Samford Bulldogs may have fallen short to juggernaut Kansas in one of the most exciting games so far of the NCAA Tournament, but the opportunity to play Thursday’s contest in his hometown of Salt Lake City was as magical as the game’s ending was heartbreaking.

“I can’t describe that feeling,” Jones told reporters at the Delta Center after Samford’s 93-89 loss. “I grew up here, 22 years. Chose to go to Birmingham, Alabama, trust in Coach Bucky and these guys. We had a historic season for Samford. To come back here and be able to play in Salt Lake City, I just can’t describe the feeling.

“I could feel the whole stadium at the end. They were behind us. I had a lot of family and friends, Utah family, Utah State family, Logan High, Olympus, everybody supporting. I wish we could have got it done one more time in front of all these people.”

Once trailing by 22 points, the Bulldogs stormed back behind their frantic defensive pressure and top-notch 3-point shooting to cut the deficit to a single point in the game’s final minute.

The comeback attempt practically turned the Delta Center crowd into a Samford spirit squad. The arena was shaking with “Let’s go Bulldogs” chants and raucous cheering for the underdog.

The night ended in controversy, however, as A.J. Staton-McCray was called for a foul on Kansas’ Nick Timberlake after what appeared to be a clean, chase-down block that would have given Samford one final chance to take the lead.

Instead, Timberlake nailed two free throws to ice the win for the No. 4-seeded Jayhawks.

Jones, who prepped at Olympus High and spent time at Utah and Utah State before landing at Samford, scored nine points in the contest and had nine assists and four steals.