Desean Murray and Mustapha Heron scored 13 points apiece to lead five Tigers in double figures as Auburn dominated Stella Azzurra 87-29 in its Italian Tour opener in Palahoney Casal Palocco on Wednesday.
Bryce Brown added 12 points on 2-of-6 treys and had five rebounds while Malik Dunbar added 11 points, making his only 3-point attempt, and pulled down six boards. Danjel Purifoy notched 10 points, seven rebounds and two steals.
“I thought the intensity was pretty good,” said Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl. “I thought our defense holding them scoreless in the second quarter was good. We have tried to emphasize that. That was a younger team that we played today and maybe one of the weaker teams we play while we are over here. Our next game against Lithuania will be a lot different.
“I thought our guys played well together. They shared the ball. We showed our athleticism and strength. We rebounded the ball better and defensively.”
Auburn scored the first eight points of the game and led 15-2 I the early going. In the first quarter, Desean Murray led the Tigers with six points, 3 offensive rebounds and two assists while Malik Dunbar had seven points as Auburn led 27-8.
“My first game was great,” said Murray, who redshirted last year after leading the Big South Conference in scoring at Presbyterian in 2015-16. “I loved it. We played with a lot of energy. We played great defense. We played great on offense. We rebounded. We talked a lot. It was fun. It was so good. It was good to even get on the court in a year and some change.”
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The Tigers held Stella Azzura scoreless in the second period to take a 47-8 halftime lead as Mustapha Heron scored seven of his nine first half points in the second quarter.
Perennial powerhouse Kansas defeated Stella Azzurra 90-56 a week ago by blowing the game open in the second quarter to lead 58-29 at the half.
Auburn held Stella scoreless for 14:04, leading 51-8 before Stella scored with 8:31 left in the third.
“We are trying not to get complacent on the first win,” said Heron. “We have three more games. We are just trying to build and get better every day. This is a great bonding trip, and we are trying to get close. Every day as we get closer to the season, we need to become a tighter unit. I think it’s a good start.
“It was fun. I’m looking forward to an exciting season. We have a lot of different weapons.”
The Tigers outscored Stella Azzurri 27-8 in the first quarter, 20-0 in the second, 24-7 in the third and 16-15 in the fourth.
Auburn led 76-15 with seven minutes to play when Pearl emptied the bench.
“Desean is a really effective player,” said Pearl. “He is a good team player. He’s small for a power forward, but it’s his best position. Even in the SEC, he’s going to present matchup problems for people because he doesn’t play small. It was very nice to see him play as well as he did.”
Auburn travels by train to Florence on Thursday before playing the second game of its four-game tour vs. Lithuania’s BC Silute on Friday at 11:30 am CT in Ponte Buggianese. The Tigers play at Veneto Select on Sunday at 12:30 pm in Montebelluna and close out the tour vs. the Italy All-Stars in Costa Masnaga on Monday at noon.
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