By Charles Goldberg
LaRon Smith saw Texas Tech driving for the tying basket. LaRon Smith knew just what to do.
"I said no way I'm going to let him get that layup."
And the Auburn forward didn't. He swatted the ball away in the closing seconds and helped Auburn hold off Texas Tech 67-65 Tuesday in the Cancun Challenge in Mexico.
Auburn improved to 4-0 for the second time in the last 10 years and will play Purdue, which beat Utah State 85-64 in Tuesday's nightcap, at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday on CBS Sports Network. Mustapha Heron and Danjel Purifoy reached back for history as well. Heron led Auburn with 15 points and Purifoy scored 11 as they became the first Auburn freshmen to score in double digits in their first four game since Scott Pohlman did it in the 1997-98 season.
The Tigers led by 19 early in the second half when Texas Tech was in a stretch in which it didn't score a field goal for 12½ minutes. Then Auburn had to hold on.
"It was a great win for our program, a great win for our kids," said Auburn coach Bruce Pearl. "Texas Tech is an NCAA-caliber tournament team."
Auburn was coasting along until the veteran Red Raiders made their run, thanks, in part to rebounds.
"I thought that energized them," Pearl said on Auburn's post-game radio show. "I thought we stopped guarding in the second half. But, hey, I'd rather learn and win than learn and lose."
Texas Tech fell to 3-1 and will play either Utah State or Purdue on Wednesday to close out their portion of the Challenge.
Jared Harper added 10 for Auburn. The Tigers got bench help from Smith and Ronnie Johnson, too.
"LaRon is our best rim protector," Pearl said. "Ronnie Johnson gave us a big 3 when Texas Tech was making their run. He didn't have many plays, but that was a huge one. And LaRon didn't have many plays, but he had some rebound baskets, he had some offensive rebounds and he was our best rim protector."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine