Auburn snaps Dayton’s 16-game home win streak, 73-60
DAYTON, Ohio (AP) If Auburn’s first true road opponent was intimidating on paper, it was never obvious in person.
The Tigers entered UD Arena Wednesday to face a Dayton team that hadn’t lost at home in 16 games and 385 days. Auburn jumped to an early lead and passed the test in convincing fashion, beating Dayton 73-60.
In addition to snapping the Flyers’ streak, Auburn (5-1) handed Dayton (3-3) its first double-digit home loss in almost four years.
”This is one of those games we had marked on our calendar,” Auburn guard Mustapha Heron, who led the Tigers with 21 points, said. We were really excited. They’re a tournament team, at least the last four years, so this is one we had to get.”
Auburn took an 11-2 lead as Dayton started 1 of 9 from the field. The Flyers struggled to find a rhythm all night. They turned the ball over five times before the first media timeout and finished with 19 turnovers, many unforced.
”We talked a lot about beginnings and endings. At the beginning of the game, I thought we were too sloppy, uncharacteristically anxious, and blew some opportunities there,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. ”We were able to recover, and then at the end of the half, it was almost the same situation.”
Dayton went on a 13-0 run midway through the first half to briefly take the lead, but Auburn outscored Dayton 24-9 for the remainder of the half. The Tigers never trailed again, leading by double digits for most of the second half and extending their lead by as much as 16.
After scoring just two points in the first half, Heron helped the Tigers pull away with 19 second-half points.
”I thought he played like a pro,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said of Heron. ”He definitely took over the game in the second half for us offensively, driving downhill and getting to the foul line without forcing the issue.”
Auburn, which entered Wednesday’s game averaging 93.4 points per game, managed just 35 points before halftime. Its 73 points were the lowest in a game this season, but it was enough to ensure the outcome was not in doubt.
”I’m thrilled with 73 points, just because we were patient offensively,” Pearl said. ”They shot better in the second half, so I didn’t want to take a chance by pushing the tempo too much. We needed to focus on guarding them more than scoring.”
Auburn: Freshman Chuma Okeke, who entered the game averaging 8.8 points per game, surpassed his career high before halftime. He led Auburn with 13 first-half points and added two after the break.
Dayton: The Flyers continue to rely on senior guard Darrell Davis, who averaged just 5.5 points per game last season, to be the cornerstone of their young offense. He entered Wednesday’s game averaging 20 points per game, helped Dayton stay close in the first half with his 10 first-half points and finished with a team-high 18.
HERON’S HOT HAND
Heron has scored over 20 points in each of the Tigers’ last three games. After scoring 22 against Hofstra and 31 against Winthrop, his 19 second-half points Wednesday helped keep his streak intact.
Dayton starter Kostas Antetokounmpo drew two fouls in the game’s first 28 seconds, forcing Grant to rethink his rotation earlier than planned. Team captain Josh Cunningham, the Flyers’ second-leading scorer entering Wednesday’s game, fouled out with just six points.
Auburn hosts George Mason on Sunday.
Dayton plays its first true road game of the season at Mississippi State on Sunday.