Canty scores 21 and Auburn holds off Mercer late, 78-71
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) When Auburn needed a statement, Kareem Canty provided the exclamation point.
With the Tigers leading by a single point with just under 30 seconds to go in the game, Canty rose up – on an injured ankle – and canned a deep 3-pointer with a pair of defenders around him to extend Auburn's lead to four, and the Tigers held off Mercer Tuesday night, 78-71.
''I knew I was shooting it,'' Canty said. ''I told them I was going to reject (the screen) and drive the lane, but I seen I had space, and I just let it go.''
Canty's 21 points led the Tigers, and improved his 19 point-per-game average, which was good for fourth in the SEC.
Tyler Harris collected the fourth double-double of his career with 20 points and 11 rebounds, while T.J. Dunans had 14 points, and Cinmeon Bowers added 13 points and 12 rebounds, good for his fourth double-double.
The Tigers shot 36.2 percent in the first half, and were down by as many as six before taking the lead just before halftime on an alley-oop from Canty to Dunans.
Auburn opened the second half on a 15-5 run and stretched its lead to 10 before the Bears cut it to five.
''We knew we had to get a lead,'' Canty said. ''We talked amongst each other and said, `Let's not give this one up.we tried to come out with more hunger.'''
Mercer got within one point on a couple of occasions, but each time Auburn pulled away.
Lewis led everyone in scoring with 28 points, and Stephon Jelks added 12 for the Bears, whose five-game win streak was snapped.
Mercer whittled Auburn's 10-point lead down to four in the second half, but the Tigers weathered the storm throughout the rest of the period.
Canty went down with an ankle injury midway through the second half, and he returned after a short trip to the locker room to propel Auburn on a 7-1 run.
But Mercer kept fighting.
Lewis' 3-pointer with just under two minutes to go capped a 15-8 run for the Bears, but the Tigers responded with a pair of 3-pointers and free throws from Canty, and a two thunderous Bowers dunks to clinch Auburn's fifth win of the season.
''We showed a little bit of heart, a little bit of character,'' Pearl said. ''Those kids are coming together.''
Mercer came into the game allowing a Southern Conference-best 60.2 points per game, but Auburn eclipsed that by nearly 19 points.
Auburn entered Tuesday's contest ninth in the country – and first in the SEC – in made 3-pointers per game with 10.7, but made only 9 in the win.
TJ Lang, who started at shooting guard for Auburn, exited the game with an ankle injury four minutes into the game. He immediately went to the locker room and came back sometime later with a protective boot on his right foot.
Mercer visits Arkansas on Saturday.
Auburn travels to No. 10 Xavier on Saturday.