By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Mustapha Heron says his game plan is to be aggressive and have fun. He accomplished both for the Auburn basketball team Friday night.
The freshman scored 26 points to lead a new wave of Tigers to a 96-68 win over Division II Montevallo in an exhibition game in Auburn Arena. The Tigers' four freshmen combined for 57 points, and freshmen and sophomores combined to score 39 of Auburn's 43 second-half points.
"There are some really, really talented young men that have a chance to be really good players," coach Bruce Pearl. "We have a chance to be a really good team."
Pearl stuck with his promised 10-man rotation most of the way before letting most everybody play late. Still, no player saw more than 24 minutes of action in the tune-up before the regular-season opener against North Florida on Nov. 11.
"There were so many things we had to learn as a young team," Pearl said. "I wanted to go through those things. We're playing 10 guys, so blending 10 players together and so many new pieces. They never played together in front of anybody until tonight. It's very, very new.
"I thought our effort was good. I thought our pressure was good."
Heron, who hit nine of his 12 shots from the field, made the most of his time.
"He plays loud, but he's quiet," Pearl said. "He's got a lot of noise to his game. He's extremely coachable. The harder I get on him, the more he seems to respond."
At the end of the day, Pearl said, "Mustapha does what he does."
Auburn tipped its hand for the regular season, firing up 32 3-pointers, hitting 14.
"We have a lot of good shooters. Hopefully, we'll keep it rolling," Heron said.
Freshman Danjel Purifoy, who was at Auburn last season but was redshirted, scored 18 points, including 12 in the first half. Bryce Brown scored 14 and T.J. Dunans had 11.
Auburn had a 42-31 rebounding edge.
Still, "We turned the ball over too much," Pearl said.
"When you play fast, sometimes you play sloppy. I thought that was the case some tonight." Auburn committed 18 turnovers.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine