The first three games this season were a struggle for Mustapha Heron. Auburn’s star sophomore shot just 28.5 percent (10-35) from the floor in the three games, including 2-13 (15.3 percent) from three-point range. He totaled just 29 points over the three games, as questions started to rise about the former five-star recruit.
Heron answered those questions Sunday night as he led Auburn (3-1) to a 89-78 win over Hofstra (3-2) in the 3rd place game of the Charleston Classic.
Heron finished with 22 points on 8-13 shooting. He also grabbed four rebounds to go along with three steals.
“I just didn’t think he pressed it quite as much,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said on the ESPNU broadcast after the game. “Look, he’s going to play in the NBA someday. He really is. He doesn’t have to get there every time he comes out. Guys just need to understand that. Just relax and have some joy in the game.”
Auburn, which trailed 50-49 at halftime, used a 18-0 run over the first 7:25 of the second half to extend its lead to as much as 17 in the second half.
"We wanted to come out in the second half with more intensity and play better defense," Heron said. "We have energy. We’re real deep. We have two guys at every position."
Bryce Brown finished with 17 points while Jared Harper and DeSean Murray scored 13 and 12 points, respectively.
Auburn freshman Davion Mitchell scored a career-high nine points on 4-5 shooting to go along with a team-high three assists.
Auburn shot 59.3 percent (32-54) from the floor, and knocked down nine of its 19 three-point attempts. Harper and Brown each knocked down three jump shots from beyond the arc.
The Tigers out-rebounded the Pride 35-24. Auburn also outscored Hofstra 42-26 in the paint.
“We’re in a good spot right now," Heron said. "We’re definitely a young team, but we have energy, we’re real deep. I see a great future for this team.”
Eli Pemberton led Hofstra with 23 points on 8-12 shooting. Justin Wright-Foreman totaled 16 points for the Pride, who finished fourth in the Charleston Classic.
Auburn will return to action Friday night vs. Winthrop at 6 p.m. CT. Auburn will honor Charles Barkley in a pregame ceremony.