AUBURN, Ala. (AP) Mustapha Heron scored 19 points to lead Auburn to a 79-63 win over George Mason on Sunday.
Even without center Austin Wiley – who has not played this season due to eligibility issues – the Tigers (6-1) outrebounded the Patriots 45-30 and had 25 second-chance points. They have outrebounded all of their opponents this season.
”It’s great balance. You look at the rebounding and it’s balanced all over the place, because we don’t have a dominant rebounder,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. ”Our guys are all just kind of rallying to it, checking out, and accepting responsibility. Our guys worked really hard at it in the offseason.”
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Auburn shot 41 percent from the floor and made 10 3-pointers. Anfernee McLemore blocked five shots in his first start of the season and is averaging a team-high 3.4 blocks per game. He also added six points and 10 rebounds in 23 minutes.
Jaire Grayer led George Mason (4-4) with 18 points on 6-of-15 shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds.
After shooting a season-high 49 percent against James Madison on Wednesday, the Patriots shot just 35 Sunday. George Mason is 5-6 all-time against SEC programs.
”It was disappointing,” George Mason coach Dave Paulsen said. ”To get ahead and fight back from 20 points down and get ahead in the second half, and then just couldn’t come up with the stops down the stretch, and execution offensively down the stretch.”
Auburn opened the game on a 16-0 run, holding the Patriots scoreless for the first seven minutes. The Tigers shot 52 percent in the first half and led by 11 at the break.
After trailing by as many as 22 in the opening half, George Mason came back to take the lead early in the second half. The Tigers responded quickly, retaking a double-digit lead with an 18-2 run. Auburn allowed just 11 points in the last 13 minutes.
”The way the game started, it couldn’t have gone any better,” Pearl said. ”We played so well, so balanced, so hard, with such purpose. We were so disruptive to the opponent. And then, Jared (Harper) got two fouls, and we stopped playing with the same effort and energy. We allowed George Mason to get back in it.”
Despite playing at less than 100 percent due to a toe injury, Harper hit two key 3-pointers down the stretch. He finished with 12 points on 3-of-10 shooting.
”I knew at some point I was going to make shots,” Harper said. ”I’ve been in the gym a lot, so I knew I was going to knock the shots down that I’m accustomed to making at some point.”
Auburn: Continues its season-long three-game home stand against Gardner Webb on Wednesday.
George Mason: Returns home for a matchup against William and Mary Wednesday night.