Heron leads Auburn to 89-78 win over Hofstra
CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) Auburn coach Bruce Pearl was excited about his team’s showing in the Charleston Classic and believes the Tigers have the potential for even bigger things this season.
”We’re trying to make history,” Pearl said Sunday night after his team took third place with an 89-78 win over Hofstra. ”You know, every time we do something we haven’t done in a long time, we make a little bit of history.”
Auburn (3-1) hasn’t had much to crow about in early season events, but leaves Charleston going 2-1.
”We’ve played four games so far and we don’t have a bad loss among them,” he said.
Mustapha Heron had 22 points including nine during Auburn’s 18-0 run to start the second half.
Auburn (3-1) was locked in a high-scoring shootout in the opening half and trailed 50-49 before building its lead coming out of the break. Heron got things going with a layup and added four foul shots. By the time he hit a jumper with 13:08 remaining, the Tigers led 67-50.
Hofstra (3-2) answered with a 14-4 run and cut Auburn’s lead to 77-70 on Eli Pemberton’s driving basket with 3:08 to go. But the Pride could get no closer and lost their second straight in the eight-team tournament after beginning with victory Dayton.
Heron punctuated the win with a rousing dunk with 15 seconds to go.
He said the team was frustrated that it shot and scored well in the opening 20 minutes, yet trailed at the break. ”We tried not to let it get to us,” he said.
Pemberton had 23 points, but only four after the break. The 6-foot-5 sophomore seemed to lose his focus in the second half after he was called for a technical in the midst of Auburn’s decisive run.
Bryce Brown had 17 points for Auburn while Jared Harper added 13 before fouling out.
Justin Wright-Foreman scored 16 points for Hofstra, but was just 2 of 10 from behind the arc. He had made seven threes in the tournament’s first two games.
Both teams shot well in the opening half. Hofstra made 18 of 28 attempts (64.3 percent) with nine 3-pointers. Auburn was 17 of 30 overall with seven long-range baskets. Fittingly, Pemberton’s driving shot sent the Pride into halftime ahead 50-49.
”I’d like to have those eight minutes back, that’s obvious,” Hofstra coach Joe Mihalich said.
The Tigers of the Southeastern Conference turned up their defense in the second half, holding Hofstra to 0-of-7 shooting with five turnovers during the decisive run.
Auburn: The Tigers showed they can shoot at the Charleston Classic. Their defense, though, may be a work in progress. There were several stretches in the loss to Temple and against Hofstra when Auburn would give up the wide-open shot or easy basket too often.
Hofstra: The Pride has strong outside-shooting guards in Pemberton and Wright-Foreman and a solid front-line defender in 6-foot-9 Rokas Gustys. Hofstra’s depth beyond that did not always show up during their three games in Charleston. The Pride will need to develop some if they hope to go a long way in the Colonial Athletic Association.
Hofstra coach Joe Mihalich had told friends that the Charleston Classic would either make his team or break it. Despite losses to Auburn of the SEC and Clemson of the Atlantic Coast Conference, he thinks the tournament made his team. ”We can take a lot out of this experience,” he said.
Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said his team wanted to head back to campus with a win so it could help root on its football team with its annual Iron Bowl game against No. 1 Alabama on Saturday. ”We want to win Friday night against Winthrop and keep growing,” he said of Auburn’s next game. ”And we’d like our football team to win the Iron Bowl and represent the SEC West in the championship game against Georgia.”
Auburn returns home to play Winthrop on Friday night.
Hofstra plays at Siena on Saturday.
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