Coming off its first road victory over a ranked opponent in 10 years, Auburn made some more history Saturday night inside Auburn Arena.
Auburn used a big first half on its way to a 88-77 victory over No. 22 Arkansas, which marked the first time the Tigers have defeated back-to-back ranked SEC opponents since 1958.
“Beating two top 25 teams is really about taking advantage of the opportunity,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said. “We’re playing good basketball right now. We’ve got nine guys that are really playing well together. We’re in a good place.”
Auburn scored 47 first half points, the most Arkansas has allowed in the first half this season, and led the Hogs by 17 at halftime.
“That was a really good basketball game,” Pearl said. “Arkansas is good, and we knew we could play well tonight and not win. We played so well in the first half and built ourselves a terrific lead.”
Auburn led by as many as 21 points in the second half, but Arkansas chipped away and used a 19-5 run to close the deficit to seven with 5:07 to play. The Razorbacks did not get any closer.
Mustapha Heron led Auburn with 17 points, finishing 7-of-14 from the field. Desean Murray scored 15 points and grabbed a game-high eight rebounds for the Tigers.
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“Together, as a unit, we played great defense in that first half," Murray said. "We played hard and played together. Everyone’s just got each other’s backs.
"We hate to lose. I feel like on the court, our chemistry is great. We just play together.”
Jared Harper finished with 14 points and eight assists, while Bryce Brown tallied 13 points for Auburn.
The Tigers shot 51.7 percent (30-of-58) from the field and 55 percent (11-of-20) from three-point range.
Arkansas (11-4, 1-2) was led by Jaylen Barford, who scored a game-high 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting. Anton Beard scored 11 points, while Daryl Macon, who came into the game averaging 17.2 points, was held to just 10.
“Auburn came out and threw the first punch,” Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson said. “They couldn’t miss a shot it seemed like. They were emotionally jacked up.”
Auburn improves to 14-1 on the season with its 12th-straight victory, which is the third-longest active streak in the nation. The Tigers are 2-0 in the SEC for the first time since the 2012-2013 season.
"We don't take lightly what they projected us," Heron said, referencing a CBS Sports story that pegged the Tigers to go 4-14 in SEC play. "They projected us to win less games than last year, so that's definitely a motivating factor, but we just want to go out and play hard for each other and have fun. I think right now we're just having fun, and that's the easiest part of the game to keep up, having fun.”
Auburn, which will likely be ranked in the coming week for the first time since January 2003, will host Ole Miss on Tuesday at 8 p.m. CST. The game will be televised by ESPNU.
"This is a really good league, but we have 16 more games, and we're capable of winning or losing every one of them," Pearl said. "That's how good this league is. So while we're healthy and playing well, we got to keep winning because we're in a good spot right now. We got to take advantage of where we are right now.”
"I'm not worried at all about 14-1 or this run. This run is going to end. It's going to end. This league is too good. Too much parity. I'm just worried about continuing to, let's not get too high; when we do get beat, let's not get too low. Let's just keep getting better."
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