Balanced effort carries Auburn to blowout win over UConn
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) Desean Murray and Mustapha Heron each scored 13 points and a balanced effort led Auburn to an 89-64 win over UConn on Saturday.
It was the Tigers’ third-largest margin of victory this season and the Huskies’ second-largest margin of defeat.
Auburn (11-1) never trailed in the game and led for the final 34-plus minutes for its ninth consecutive victory.
”I would say that this is as well as we’ve played,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. ”What a treat for our fans to see UConn, and to see our Auburn team not only belong on the floor with them, but we outplayed them.”
Auburn built its lead on the strength of a 16-0 run early in the first half, which turned a 7-7 deadlock into a 23-7 lead in a span of fewer than three minutes. The Tigers led by at least 14 points the rest of the way despite making just 1 of 10 shots to close the first half and going nearly five minutes without scoring.
Jalen Adams, UConn’s leading scorer on the season averaging 18.6 points per game, scored only 14 points on 5-of-15 shooting, and the Huskies shot a season low 34.3 percent from the floor.
”We’ve got to play for the UConn jersey. We’ve got to play with some pride and some fight. That 16-0 run took the fight out of us,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. ”They’re athletic and they’re a physical team, but we can’t get pushed around the way we did.”
Malik Dunbar scored 12 points, Davion Mitchell had 10, and Horace Spencer finished with nine to go along with a game-high 10 rebounds to lead 39-point, 18-rebound performance from the Tigers’ bench. Jared Harper was the other Auburn player in double-figures, scoring 11 points to go along with seven assists.
The win was Auburn’s second straight over UConn following last season’s 70-67 overtime win in Hartford, Connecticut.
The Tigers won their ninth straight game, which continues the program’s best start to a season since 1999 and longest winning streak since 2002-03.
The Huskies remain two games over .500 despite Saturday’s result, but they are now 1-5 against high-major opponents with losses to Michigan State, Arkansas, Syracuse, Arizona and Auburn.
Auburn’s 16-0 first-half run was sparked by the team’s bench. Mitchell made a layup, Dunbar hit back-to-back 3-pointers and three overall during the surge, and Murray and Harper also contributed buckets. Auburn shot 6 of 7 during the stretch.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
Auburn dished out a season-high 18 assists on 29 baskets. UConn finished with a near season-low seven assists on 23 field goals and only one player, Adams, record more than one.
Auburn hosts Cornell next Saturday in its final nonconference game before opening SEC play on Jan. 2 at Tennessee.
UConn continues a difficult three-game stretch, following road games at Arizona and Auburn with a home game against No. 11 Wichita State next Saturday.