AUBURN, Ala. — After 111 years, Auburn can say it has played a game in Madison Square Garden.
And the Tigers’ first experience in one of the greatest arenas was memorable. For most of Monday night, Bruce Pearl’s young squad was in a back-and-forth battle with Boston College.
Auburn knew its scouting report but still struggled to defend BC guard Jerome Robinson and forward A.J. Turner. Danjel Purifoy adjusted well to the big city and tried his best to lead the Tigers to a win. Auburn, however, couldn’t overcome its ACC opponent, eventually falling 72-71 to the Eagles on a last-second shot from Nik Popovic.
Player of the game
Daniel Purifoy: 27 points (8-for-14 FGs), 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals
Madison Square Garden is one of the most intimidating venues in all of sports. While the larger stage rattled Auburn’s young players in the early minutes Monday night, redshirt freshman Purifoy, considered by many to be Auburn’s most pro-ready player, looked comfortable from the tip.
Purifoy, who dished out 9 assists against USC Upstate earlier this season, got going after snatching a few rebounds and delivering a couple of nice passes in the first half. From there, the 6-foot-7 forward attacked the rim and reached the free-throw line. While Auburn has struggled from the charity stripe in recent games, Purifoy was 5 for 5 from the line.
Once again, Purifoy was a definite mismatch problem. After several games where freshmen Mustapha Heron and Jared Harper took over, the ball was in Purifoy’s hands in the final seconds of the game. It was a close call, as Boston College dropped in a last-second putback, but Purifoy was the difference in the game for Auburn.
Stat line of the game
Ronnie Johnson, once again, provides a spark.
Johnson has been arguably Auburn’s most important bench player so far this season. The graduate transfer brought poise — which was even more important in the Garden — but also continued to ignite the Tigers with his unselfishness on offense.
While it would be easy for Johnson to come in and force passes or shots, he let the game come to him against the Eagles and ended up having one of the best plus-minus figures on the night.
Auburn took its first lead on a Bryce Brown layup with 6:45 remaining. The score was simple but appeared to give the Tigers momentum and confidence they’d been lacking for most of the game.
A few minutes later, Harper, who kept Auburn in its game against UAB with his hot shooting, nailed a 3-pointer to tie the score at 64.
Purifoy wasn’t far behind. The forward hit a 3-pointer with just under three minutes remaining that took even more pressure off Auburn. The redshirt freshman also made a heroic drive to try to put away the game for Auburn but couldn’t stop BC’s last-second score.
What’s next for Auburn basketball
The Tigers will return to the Plains to play Coastal Carolina on Thursday.
Coastal Carolina (5-6) has won three of its last four games but has struggled to compete with a mix of opponents this season. Some of the Chanticleers’ toughest losses so far have come against College of Charleston, BYU and Wake Forest.
The Chanticleers also lost to Chattanooga and Alabama. Auburn faced the Mocs in a preseason exhibition game and will take on the Crimson Tide at the end of January during conference play.
Junior Demario Beck will be a tough matchup for the Tigers down low in their first home game in nearly a month. The 6-foot-8, 220-pound forward is averaging 11.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.