Brown, Auburn hold off UAB 85-80 for 6th straight win
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) With Auburn down yet another key player, Bryce Brown and Jared Harper helped the Tigers build big leads and then hold on.
Brown finished with 27 points and Harper made 3 of 4 free throws over the final 27 seconds to lead the Tigers to an 85-80 win over UAB on Saturday.
Auburn (8-1) won its sixth straight game even with Mustapha Heron out with back problems, joining already sidelined Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy. His replacement Malik Dunbar came up with some key plays, too.
”Mustapha’s such a stabilizing force for us,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. ”So many guys had to step up to be able to get this win.”
The Tigers surrendered most of a 13-point second-half advantage to the Blazers (6-4) but never the lead.
They made 12 of 14 free throws down the stretch, with Harper hitting six of them.
”I know late in the game that that’s my time to be aggressive,” he said. ”Late in the game, I want to look to get to the basket and get to the foul line.”
Dunbar, making his first start, grabbed one of the missed foul shots for a putback. He scored off another offensive rebound with 39 seconds left after Nick Norton’s 3-pointer cut the margin to 80-78.
The Tigers grabbed 14 offensive rebounds against a team that came in fifth nationally with a plus-12 rebounding margin.
”The last couple of minutes we were one stop away from having a chance to steal one here on the road,” UAB coach Robert Ehsan said. ”Offensive rebounding really, I thought, sealed the game for them. That’s what Auburn in my opinion does best. That was the No. 1 thing on our scouting report.”
Brown had 23 of his 27 points in the first half. He made 6 of 9 3-point attempts and had 15 consecutive points for Auburn during one stretch. Harper had 21 points and five assists while Desean Murray added 18 points and seven rebounds.
Chris Cokley led the way for the Blazers. He had 26 points and nine rebounds while making 8 of 12 shots and all 10 free throw attempts.
UAB cut a 13-point second-half deficit to 71-70 on Jalen Perry’s 3-pointer with 4:21 left. Auburn delivered at the foul line to hold off the Blazers.
The already short-handed Tigers were minus Heron, who left Wednesday night’s game with Gardner-Webb with back spasms. They’ve played all season without Wiley and Purifoy amid an internal investigation into the program.
Dunbar had nine points and six rebounds in his first start.
”He came through down the stretch for us,” Brown said. ”Coach trusted him and so did his teammates.”
UAB: The Blazers haven’t beaten an SEC team since dropping Arkansas 70-65 in overtime during the 2010-11 season. … They made 23 of 26 free throws.
Auburn: The Tigers tied up the series 10-10 with their fifth straight win over the Blazers. … They have outrebounded every opponent, winning the boards 35-31 this time. … Auburn made 9 of 15 3-pointers in the first half before cooling off (2 of 10).
HARPER’S START: Heron’s roommate scored 13 points in the first 5 minutes, hitting all three 3-point attempts before relinquishing the hot hand to Brown. His next basket on a layup with 8:19 left in the game. ”He was determined to come out and do what he did,” Pearl said.
UAB returns home Saturday to face a third straight in-state opponent, Alabama A&M.
Auburn plays Middle Tennessee Saturday at Birmingham’s Legacy Arena.
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