Wiley, No. 8 Auburn top UNC Asheville 67-41
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Auburn still put up big numbers against UNC Asheville. They just came on defense.
The Tigers (7-1) forced 25 turnovers, including 13 steals, and blocked 12 shots to overcome their offensive struggles.
“The only thing we really did well was on the defensive end,” Wiley said. “Offensively, we were kind of slow and missed shots … but I’m really proud of how we played defense tonight.”
The Bulldogs (1-7) managed to slow down an offense that came in averaging 89 points, but they couldn’t score much either.
Wiley was 5 of 7 from the field and blocked five shots. Malik Dunbar helped spark the Tigers off the bench with eight points, seven rebounds and five steals.
UNC Asheville was led by Luke Lawson’s nine points off the bench on 3-of-4 3-point shooting. Leading scorer DeVon Baker struggled his way to four points, 11 below his season average. He made 2 of 10 shots and committed nine turnovers.
“Any time you can hold the No. 8 team in the country to 67 points, you’ve done a decent job,” Bulldogs coach Mike Morrell said, adding that a low-scoring game “was the only chance we had.”
The Tigers heated up a bit in the second half, making 13 of 21 shots (61.9 percent), and they didn’t do anything to diminish a nation’s-best 26.4-point average victory margin. Their previous season low was 72 points against No. 3 Duke, Auburn’s only loss.
None of Auburn’s top threats had big games. Leading scorer Bryce Brown had seven points on 3-of-9 shooting. Jared Harper had nine points and five assists but also an uncharacteristic four turnovers.
A late 3-pointer gave Chuma Okeke seven points to go with five assists.
The Tigers did have a couple of dominant bursts. They scored 12 straight early in the first half and built a commanding lead with a 15-0 run in the second half. That run was capped by Horace Spencer’s alley-oop dunk and his subsequent steal and layup to push the lead to 30.
Auburn coach Bruce Pearl cautioned his team afterward about playing down to the opponent’s level.
“I think they did it a little bit tonight, but the thing they (did) do is they always guarded,” Pearl said. “They always guarded and rebounded and gave great effort on the defensive end but offensively, we weren’t as sharp. We weren’t as precise.”
UNC Asheville: Has dropped seven in a row since an opening win over St. Andrews. The Bulldogs won 70-69 on their last trip to Auburn in 2010. They didn’t attempt a free throw in the first 30 minutes and made 14 of 45 shots (31.1 percent).
Auburn: Started 2-of-8 shooting with three turnovers and was tied nearly six minutes into the game. The Tigers made just 10 of 27 shots (37 percent) en route to a 33-18 halftime lead.
UNC Asheville, which starts four freshmen, wasn’t the only team that committed too many turnovers. Auburn had 19 turnovers, but also forced 13 steals on defense.
HE SAID IT
Pearl: “We’re going to have to play much tougher against Dayton, because they’re going to come here and hit us in the mouth.”
UNC Asheville hosts Western Carolina on Saturday.
Auburn ends a three-game homestand Saturday night against Dayton.