A game of runs defined a close 16-point victory for Auburn on Sunday.
After holding a 25-3 lead to start the game, Auburn escaped with a 79-63 victory. The Patriots had an early three-point lead in the second half before the Tigers ran away with an 18-2 run to take an 11-point lead.
“The start of the game and the end of the game was really good," Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said. "The stuff in the middle I was very disappointed.”
Mustapha Heron finished with a game-high 19 points on 6-of-13 shooting in addition to eight rebounds. Jared Harper finished with 12 points, scoring nine of Auburn’s last 11 points.
Auburn, who started the game by making 10 of its first 14 attempts, finished the game shooting 41 percent from the field and 33 percent (10-of-30) for 3-pointers.
While both Heron and Harper woke Auburn up after its first deficit, Anfernee McLemore made his first start over Horace Spencer in the win. The forward finished with a game-high five blocks and 10 rebounds.
Pearl said that Spencer’s acceptance of McLemore’s new role played a large part in the pair’s combined success.
“He deserves it because he had been playing well,” Pearl said. “I’m really pleased with [Spencer’s] leadership in accepting that.”
Spencer finished with three rebounds and two assists through 12 minutes off the bench.
McLemore currently leads the team in blocks per game, averaging 3.4 on the season. He ranks sixth in the nation at the statistic.
The Tigers’ win over the Patriots marks the seventh straight game this season that Auburn has led the game in rebounding. Auburn outrebounded George Mason 46-30.
“We worked really great balance,” Pearl said. “We’ve got good size on the wings, and I think all ours guys are all just kind of rallying to it, checking out and accepting responsibility.”
Winning its fourth straight game this season to improve to 6-1 on the season, Auburn will play Gardner-Webb on Dec. 6.
Despite the winning streak, Pearl gives credit to his team’s success to Auburn not having played an in-conference opponent yet.
“We haven’t gone up against a really big team yet, and every team in the SEC is really big,” he said. “I think part of the reason we’ve rebounded so well is because we haven’t gone up against the monster yet.”