- Associated Press - Thursday, November 17, 2016

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) - Mustapha Heron had his first career double-double - 24 points and 10 rebounds - Danjel Purifoy scored 16 points, and Auburn beat Eastern Kentucky 85-64 Thursday night in a Cancun Challenge game.

Heron shouldered the load, but Auburn needed a team effort to keep its season-opening win streak alive.

The Tigers led 10-2 but went cold while Eastern Kentucky (1-2) rallied and stayed ahead until two and a half minutes left in the first half. Purifoy hit a 3-pointer amid a 9-2 run and Auburn led 37-34 at halftime.

The Colonels (1-2) closed to within 38-39 early in the second half on Jaylen Babb-Harrison’s layup. Auburn pulled away on a 15-2 run and led 65-50 after a free throw by Heron and Eastern Kentucky got no closer.

Auburn’s 34.5 shooting percentage in the first period became a scorching 56.7 percent in the second half as the Tigers broke the game open.

“They’re a good team, and you can’t give a team like that second- and third-chance opportunities, and that’s what we did,” Eastern Kentucky coach Dan McHale said. “We allowed them to impose their will, and they made us pay.”

The Tigers (3-0) were by propelled by Heron, a freshman, who connected on all eight of his field goal attempts, but only made seven of his 13 free throws.

Auburn outrebounded the Colonels 51-30, but made 25 of 41 free throws (61 percent), which helped Eastern Kentucky stay close for most of the game.

“I thought that we were obviously, our physicality - the difference between the OVC and the SEC showed up on the boards,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. “And obviously we took advantage of some things. I don’t think that our offensive execution is not what it needs to be. We’re going to spend some time doing a better job with that.”

Nick Mayo led the Colonels with 22 points and five rebounds, and Dillon Avare added 14 points.

THE TAKEAWAY

Auburn: The Tigers finish their opening homestand 3-0 and head to Cancun, Mexico, on a roll.

Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels drop the first of two games against Power 5 opponents and fall below .500 on the season.

HE SAID IT

“Interesting. We’ve struggled from the free throw line and we were shooting great in the preseason and we actually shot more free throws this week than we have in a while. I think I’m not going to shoot any more free throws and just let them do it on their own because that could have been an issue in the outcome.” - Auburn coach Bruce Pearl

MAJOR MILESTONE

Auburn guard Ronnie Johnson finished with 13 points, but it was a seemingly meaningless layup midway through the second half that mattered the most. With those two points, Johnson eclipsed 1,000 total points for his career. Johnson, a graduate transfer, scored 697 points in his first two years at Purdue and had 291 at Houston last year.

STARTING HOT

With the win, Auburn moves to 3-0 for the first time since 2011-12. It’s the second time in 12 years that’s happened on The Plains.

UP NEXT

Auburn travels to Cancun to play Texas Tech on Tuesday for the Tigers’ first away game, and they’ll look to keep Bruce Pearl’s best start at Auburn going.

Eastern Kentucky also plays the Red Raiders in Cancun, but the Colonels take on Texas Tech on Saturday.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide