AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn basketball was in one of its hardest weeks under Bruce Pearl. The Tigers lost to Boston College on a last-second tip-in on Monday, two players were indefinitely suspended on Wednesday, and another player announced his transfer just before tip-off.
But things turned around in a hurry for Auburn 10 minutes into its 117-74 win over the visiting Chanticleers. The Tigers put up their best scoring half in over a year and followed it up by knocking down 11 more 3-pointers after halftime to set a new school record of 21 in a game.
After so much disappointment and frustration earlier in the week, Auburn needed to take care of business in its final nonconference home game. It did that and then some with a sweet-shooting blowout that brought some energy back to the program.
Player of the game
Danjel Purifoy: 27 points (9-for-14 FG, 5-for-10 3PT), 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 steals, +45
Danjel Purifoy set a career-high with 27 points Monday night against Boston College. He matched that Thursday in a much more enjoyable game.
Purifoy caught fire early and didn’t look back. The Tigers set him up with plenty of open looks from deep and dunk chances under the basket. Whenever a Coastal Carolina defender could stay with him, he would get free with some slick dribbling and mid-range shot making.
The redshirt freshman forward also had a strong game defensively against a taller Coastal Carolina team. He generated a few steals in Auburn’s full-court press whenever the Chanticleers tried deep passes. It was the best overall performance of Purifoy’s young career, as he showed off everything he can provide the Tigers.
Stat line of the game
Anfernee McLemore: The sizeable spark Auburn needed on Thursday
An already-short Auburn team was missing its starting center Thursday night in Horace Spencer. That meant the Tigers needed to rely on true freshman Anfernee McLemore to not only log major minutes at the 4 but the 5 as well.
McLemore sparked a huge Auburn run with 6 points and 6 boards in just 10 first-half minutes. The Tigers got to a lot of loose rebounds when McLemore was on the floor, and he cashed in several easy opportunities under the basket.
In the end, McLemore had the third-highest plus/minus in the game behind Purifoy and veteran guard T.J. Dunans. It’s unclear how much longer Spencer will be out. But the lowest-rated recruit in Auburn’s star-studded 2016 class proved he could be a key piece when the Tigers need him.
Auburn turns the game into a rout with a 31-5 run to end the first half.
Auburn jumped out to an early lead against Coastal Carolina with some good shooting from Purifoy and true freshman guard Jared Harper. But the Chanticleers hung around thanks to their rebounding and a lack of consistent defense from the Tigers.
That all changed in the final 10 minutes of the first half, when Auburn uncorked a 31-5 run that included 23 unanswered points. The Tigers hit 8 of their last 9 shots from the field in the half, including several more 3-pointers from their star true freshmen.
Defensively, Auburn tightened up by holding Coastal Carolina to hitting just 2 of 20 straight shots. McLemore provided a spark off the bench with his rebounding, and the opportunities grew to be wide-open for the Auburn offense.
What’s next for Auburn basketball
Auburn takes on Mercer in a Sunday matinee.
The Tigers will host the Mercer Bears (5-5) this Sunday at noon CT inside Auburn Arena. Mercer has not beaten a team ranked higher than No. 159 in KenPom, with two of its victories coming against non-Division I programs.
The matchup will be Auburn’s final home nonconference game of the season. Mercer finished seventh in the Southern Conference last season and is projected to finish just above .500 overall. Auburn will have a good chance to get some more momentum heading into away trips against Oklahoma and UConn.