AUBURN, Ala. — The Tigers got comfortable behind the three-point line early on Friday night and stayed there for most of the evening.
Head coach Bruce Pearl’s team struggled to defend North Florida inside early, but quickly found a solution. Freshmen Mustapha Heron and Jared Harper immediately began attacking the Osprey bigs, drawing fouls and sending the duo to the bench.
Those drives also started to open things up for Auburn on the outside and that’s when the temperature in Auburn Arena began to soar. Auburn shot nearly 60 percent in the first half and made 13 three-pointers in the game, beating UNF 83-66.
Player of the game
Bryce Brown: 19 points (6-for-11 FG and 5-for-10 3PT) 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 steals
Auburn’s freshmen trio played well in their first regular season game, but Brown energized the Tigers early. The sophomore guard who also got hot in Auburn’s exhibition win over Montevallo, nailed three 3-pointers during the first half alone and would finish the game with 19 total points.
Brown, along with five-star freshman Mustapha Heron, was the most effective player on the floor for most of the game, averaging about a point per minute. It was the first time head coach Bruce Pearl started three freshmen in his coaching career and Brown provided a bit of experience and confidence that was contagious.
Stat line of the game
After patiently waiting to take the floor for the Tigers, the redshirt freshman was fired up for the first regular-season contest.
Purifoy didn’t lead any categories on the stat sheet, but he was on the hardwood the most for Auburn, playing 32 total minutes. The 6-foot-7 Purifoy moved well when he didn’t have the ball in his hands and moved well without the rock. He also had the team’s highest plus/minus total.
In just a week since Auburn beat Montevallo in its only exhibition game, the team’s ball movement improved a great deal. All five players touched the ball on offense and ended up with clean looks for most of the first half.
The Tigers went on a 14-2 run with just over four minutes remaining in the first half. Junior guard TJ Lang subbed into the game and drilled two 3-pointers, Purifoy added a bucket and redshirt senior point guard Ronnie Johnson added a couple of mid-range baskets.
The Tigers went into the locker room up 49-30 and the Ospreys never could recover.
The Tigers are back will be back in Auburn Arena on Monday night to take on Georgia State (8 p.m. CT, SEC Network).
The Panthers went 16-14 last season (9-11 Sun Belt). Georgia State lost its only SEC matchup 68-59 to Ole Miss in Oxford.