Just minutes into the Auburn–LSU game, the Auburn Tigers opened up a sizable 18-point lead.
Stop there and consider a couple of things. First, every team in basketball is going to go on a decent run at some point during a game. Sometimes it happens in the early moments of the contest. Yet, that hasn’t been Auburn’s way. The Tigers have frequently started games ice cold before putting up massive points in the second half thanks, to one of those runs. Even then, Auburn has allowed opponents back into games after getting up by a safe margin, the mark of a streaky and sometimes undisciplined team (read: young).
Not Saturday. At no point Saturday evening could the Tigers from Baton Rouge make it a contest inside Auburn Arena. Auburn started out white hot and was up 18 points early in a game dedicated to AUtlive. And the fans piled in the Auburn Arena by the thousands in support of The Bruce Pearl Family Foundation and AUtlive and their fight against cancer (click this link to read more).
The combination of a white hot Mustapha Heron and a raucous crowd in The Jungle was too much for LSU. The purple Tigers were not able to back up their surprise upset win against Texas A&M a few days ago. “We got whipped every way you can get whipped. Absolutely bludgeoned,” LSU coach Will Wade said. “Auburn played fantastic. Coach Pearl had them ready to play. The crowd and the environment was tremendous. We didn’t respond like we needed to.”
LSU was a decent team last year with lottery pick Ben Simmons, but when Simmons checked out, so did the wins, forcing a coaching change. This year, LSU has fallen to 12–8 on the season (3–4 SEC).
The story of the night was Mustapha Heron, who opened up the game scoring 16, yes sixteen, points in the first five minutes. He also kicked in two assists and two steals. He was named the SEC Player of the Week for his performance.
The biggest steal of the night came from Desean Murray that led to a floor shaking slam as Murray picked off a pass and shot it ahead to Jared Harper, who dished it up to Malik Dunbar, who hammered it home.
Truly, the only real excitement to cause worry for Tiger fans was when Jared Harper was checking in off the bench only to get socked in the face by an animated Bruce Pearl. Pearl emptied the bench as Auburn drubbed LSU 95-70. All 15 Auburn Tigers logged minutes in the blowout win. The biggest off-the-bench player was Chuma Okeke, and the talented freshman continues to be a fantastic sixth man for Auburn. Okeke kicked in 13 points and a block. Anfernee McLemore didn’t show up with big points, but he added another two blocks. Heron led all scorers in the game with 21 on 4–6 shooting from downtown. Over all, Auburn was fantastic from long distance, hitting 44 percent of its shots while limiting LSU to a dreadful 22 percent. Bryce Brown hit five threes to lead the Tigers from downtown.
Auburn really crashed the glass with 14 offensive rebounds, but with 55 percent shooting from the floor, it wasn’t really needed. Auburn held LSU’s Tremont Waters to a single field goal through most of the game. “[Waters] didn’t know what to do,” said Pearl. “We paid a lot of attention to him and made sure that we covered him on both sides of the ball screen.”
Auburn improved to 19–2 and stands at first place in the SEC, a game up over Florida. Next up for the Tigers is a mid-tier Ole Miss team that has wins against Alabama and Florida. However, the Rebels are 4–4 in the SEC and have lost three of their last five games.
ESPN’s BPI gives Auburn a nearly 70 percent chance to win. The Tigers need to stop Deandre Burnett, who averages 15 points and 4.5 assists per contest. Burnett is shooting a scorching 41 percent from long range and 84 percent from the line. He didn’t play against Auburn 20 days ago when Auburn thumped the Rebels 85–70 at Auburn Arena, but he has been on a tear lately, scoring at or above his average in four of his last five games—a streak that began three days before the Rebels played at Auburn.
Expect a different team this time around. The game tips at 8:00 PM Tuesday in Oxford on the SEC Network.
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