Auburn beats No. 22 Arkansas
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) Auburn’s 88-77 win over No. 22 Arkansas on Saturday meant a trip to the record book.
Mustapha Heron scored 17 points and Auburn fended off a late comeback to secure its 12th consecutive win.
Saturday’s decision, coupled with Tuesday’s win at No. 23 Tennessee, marks the first time Auburn has won consecutive games against ranked opponents since 2007, the first time it has beaten ranked teams in back-to-back games since 1986, and the first time it has beaten ranked SEC teams in back-to-back games since 1958.
”Beating two Top 25 teams, it’s just about taking advantage of the opportunity,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. ”We’re playing good basketball right now. We have nine guys who are playing really well together. So we’re in a good place. You got to take advantage of it.”
Auburn (14-1, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) hit 12 of its first 18 shots as it opened the game on a 29-18 run. After Arkansas’ CJ Jones cut the advantage to nine with a layup, Malik Dunbar hit a pair of free throws, Anfernee McLemore threw down a dunk and Chuma Okeke hit a jumper during the course of a 6-0 run that gave the Auburn a double-digit lead it held until the final 6 minutes of the game.
Arkansas (11-4, 1-2) cut the deficit to as little as seven points with 3:55 remaining in the second half thanks to a 16-6 run sparked by Darious Hall and Jaylen Barford, but the Razorbacks never got closer than that. Bryce Brown hit a 3, Davion Mitchell and Desean Murray each hit a layup, and Jared Harper salted the victory away from the free throw line.
Heron was one of five Auburn players in double figures along with Murray (15 points), Harper (14), Brown (13), and Okeke (10). The Tigers shot 51.7 percent from the field and hit 11 of 20 attempts from beyond the arc.
Barford scored 21 to lead the Razorbacks, who shot 48.4 percent from the floor but hit just 4 of 19 3s and lost by 11 despite winning the rebounding battle 35-30.
”It was a disappointing loss for our basketball team, but I like the resiliance in the second half,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. ”The first half, Auburn came out and threw the first punch. Those guys were emotionally charged up.”
Arkansas: The Razorbacks have followed a six-game winning streak with back-to-back road losses at Mississippi State and Auburn to fall to 1-2 in SEC play.
Auburn: A win in their SEC home opener extended the Tigers’ winning streak to 12 games (their longest since 1999-2000) and pushed their record to 14-1, which is their best start since that same season.
In a span of 41 seconds, Auburn’s Dunbar hit a 3 and finished an alley-oop dunk, taking a feed from freshman point guard Mitchell and throwing down a one-handed dunk that gave Auburn a 21-point lead with 11:24 left to play.
Arkansas freshman Daniel Gafford entered Saturday’s game averaging 12.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game and, at 6-foot-11, had a significant size advantage against Auburn’s frontcourt, but he finished the game with just eight points and four rebounds in 17 minutes as he dealt with foul trouble.
Arkansas entered Saturday’s game at No. 22 in the poll, but the loss in Auburn Arena coupled with one Tuesday should see it dropped from the rankings. Auburn, which received votes but was not ranked in the most recent poll, could approach or even capture its first spot in the Top 25 since January 2003.
Arkansas will try to stop a two-game losing streak when it returns home to host LSU on Wednesday.
Auburn goes for 13th win in a row at home against Ole Miss on Tuesday.
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