AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Mustapha Heron scored 22 points and grabbed six rebounds, LaRon Smith added 15 points and five rebounds, and Auburn powered past South Carolina-Upstate 90-83 on Tuesday night. The Tigers shot 45 percent from the field compared with SC Upstate's 42 percent, but Auburn connected on just 22 percent of its 32 shots from beyond the arc. Auburn never trailed, but the Tigers made it interesting before pulling out their fifth win of the year.
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Mustapha Heron scored 22 points and grabbed six rebounds, LaRon Smith added 15 points and five rebounds, and Auburn powered past South Carolina-Upstate 90-83 on Tuesday night.
The Tigers shot 45 percent from the field compared with SC Upstate's 42 percent, but Auburn connected on just 22 percent of its 32 shots from beyond the arc. Auburn never trailed, but the Tigers made it interesting before pulling out their fifth win of the year.
"We're not playing as well as what we should be playing at this point," said Auburn coach Bruce Pearl. "... I just don't think we had the effort and the energy and the tenacity to finish plays. And that's why they came back. I mean we scored 48 points in the second half, against a team we were obviously physically superior to, but we did not play with effort and energy on the defensive end."
The Tigers (5-1) led early and weathered a Spartan run before halftime to bounce back following their first loss last Wednesday to No. 17 Purdue.
Heron, a freshman, continued his streak of reaching double digits in each game he's played in his college career. He had 12 points at halftime to help Auburn stave off the Spartans, who used a 13-0 run to get within five points before the Tigers pulled away for a 42-32 halftime lead.
The Spartans (3-4) trailed by as many as 18, but pulled to within five points a few times down the stretch. They utilized the size of 7-foot center Michael Buchanan to their advantage. Buchanan poured in 20 points against the smaller Auburn front line — Smith and Horace Spencer, both 6-foot-8, the tallest players Auburn's roster.
SC Upstate outrebounded the Tigers 52-41, but had just 12 second-chance points compared with Auburn's 19.
"We have kids with character that keep fighting," said USC Upstate coach Eddie Payne. "We got a few stops. We had a 10-0 run at one point where we really got out in transition and spaced the floor well, and that happened on I think two separate occasions . from our perspective, we have to play like that on a consistent basis."
Auburn forced 15 turnovers, which led to 21 points.
Mike Cunningham scored 20 for SC Upstate and Ramel Thompkins added 13 points and eight rebounds.
South Carolina Upstate: The Spartans fall below .500, but are in the midst of a season-long seven-game road trip. They won't return home until Dec. 10, when they play host to Virginia-Wise.
Auburn: The Tigers pick up a win in their only home game in nearly a month, and bounce back following their first loss, a 25-point drubbing in the Cancun Challenge championship.
HOT START FOR HERON
Heron came into Tuesday's game averaging 14.6 points per game. He easily topped that with his 23 points against the Spartans, and he just missed tying his career high of 24, which came against Eastern Kentucky.
HE SAID IT
"I think that we see the potential. But I've always heard, 'Potential is the kiss of death.' So we've just got to do (it). We know our best basketball is ahead of us." - Auburn guard Mustapha Heron on his team's potential.
USC Upstate: The Spartans visit Campbell University on Dec. 2 in the Holy City Hoops Classic.
Auburn: Heads up north to Birmingham on Dec. 3 to take on UAB.