By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Mustapha Heron scored in double figures Saturday, just like he's done all season, broke an Auburn record in doing so, but it wasn't enough for the Tigers against Ole Miss.
The Rebels won 88-85 in Auburn Arena after overcoming an eight-point halftime deficit and the red-hot shooting of Jared Harper down the stretch.
Heron scored 20 points, and has now hit double figures in all 15 of his college games, the hottest streak ever for an Auburn freshman to begin his career. He broke Wesley Person's freshman record set in the 1990-91 season.
But it was Harper who almost led Auburn back to victory. He scored 16 of Auburn's final 19 points, and helped the Tigers erase a 12-point Ole Miss lead in a wild four-minute span. Harper tied it at 80-80 with 1:02 remaining, makng all three free throws after being fouled on a 3-point attempt.
"While I was observing on the bench my team was fighting to get us back in the game," Harper said. "I think we were down eight and coach put me back in the game and put the ball in my hands."
Harper delivered. It wasn't enough.
"I think we got better," Harper said.
Harper delighted the crowd in the final minutes and finished with 24 points.
"I thought the Auburn crowd was energetic and the Auburn players fed off that crowd," said Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy.
But the Tigers were hurt Saturday when second-leading scorer Danjel Purifoy turned his left ankle in the first half. He spent the second half on crutches and coach Bruce Pearl said the freshman is doubtful for Tuesday's game at Missouri.
Still, "when you score 85 points, you should win a lot of college basketball games," Pearl said.
Ole Miss improved to 10-5 overall and 1-2 in the Southeastern Conference. Auburn fell to 10-5 overall and 0-3 in the league, and will have to wait for another game to match last season's win total. Heron said the Tigers won't dwell on the loss.
"We're worried about getting the next one," Heron said. "We got better tonight, and we're going to Mizzou with a clear mind."
Pearl said he was disappointed with the outcome, but "pleased with our effort."
Losing Purifoy didn't help. "That was tough. He's an important part of our scheme," Pearl said.
Purifoy, who was averaging 14.2 points per game, scored six.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine