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​'Had to have this one' - Auburn clinches winning season, beating LSU

Feb. 21, 2017

By Jeff Shearer

Auburn clinched its first winning season in eight years, beating LSU 98-75 Tuesday at Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge.

The Tigers made 14-of-31 3-pointers, handing LSU its 14th consecutive defeat.

"It was crucial," said Auburn coach Bruce Pearl. "We had to have this one."

Ronnie Johnson led Auburn with 17 points. Danjel Purifoy and Bryce Brown each added 15. T.J. Dunans (11) and Mustapha Heron (10) also reached double figures. Heron led Auburn with 9 rebounds.

The victory ended Auburn's 3-game losing streak, guaranteeing Auburn's first winning season since 2009.

"We played better defense in the second half. We didn't get killed on the boards," Pearl said. "We won the battle of the boards by 9 (39-30). Better defense. Better rebounding. And if we can improve in that area, we can be a pretty competitive team."

Auburn (17-11, 6-9) made 9 straight shots down the stretch, turning a relatively close game into a blowout.

"We are so young, and you just don't know what you're going to get," Pearl said. "But I think it is going to put a little wind in our sails. We've got three games left. We've probably got to go 2-1 in these last three games to have a chance to not play on the first night of the SEC (Tournament)."

Brown's back-to-back 3-pointers helped Auburn take a double-digit lead in the second half. Heron's driving layup gave Auburn a 13-point lead, 67-54. Purifoy's putback extended the lead to 15.

Austin Wiley's steal and pass to Dunans for a dunk, followed by Heron's drive, extended Auburn's lead to 17, 80-63.

"We're not very big. We have two freshman centers who are both going to be terrific players, and our power forwards (TJ Lang and Purifoy) are both very undersized," Pearl said. "As a result, we try to spread the floor and take what the defense gives us."

Auburn outscored LSU 43-19 in bench points.

"We don't drop off when we go to the bench," Pearl said. "We're trying to get focused on playing with effort and energy."

Auburn led 45-42 at the half, after outrebounding LSU 21-17. The Tigers hit 6-of-18 3-pointers in the first half, with Lang making 2-of-3.

Antonio Blakeney led LSU (9-18, 1-14) with 29.

The Tigers return to Auburn Arena Saturday at 7:30 p.m. against Arkansas.

"They're playing great basketball," Pearl said. "You talk about a team that plays hard and plays together, and doesn't drop off a lot when they go to the bench. That's going to be a really crucial game if we're going to build on this momentum.

"In order for us to meet the expectations of our team, we need to finish strong."

Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:



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