Nov. 29, 2016
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Mustapha Heron says Auburn's best basketball is coming.
That had to be good news for coach Bruce Pearl, who was left wondering exactly where Auburn stands after an uneven 90-83 win over USC Upstate on Tuesday night in Auburn Arena.
"If you're a little disappointed in how we're playing right now, you should be. And if you're wondering how good this team really is going to be, you should wonder. We've given you enough reason to," Pearl said.
Heron was his usual consistent self with a team-best 23 points and six rebounds, and three assists for good measure.
"Mustapha Heron continues to play really solidly," Pearl said.
"That's just how the flow of the game works," Heron said. "Our team is based on feeding off the hot hand. I guess I was the hot hand tonight."
Nine other Tigers scored, too. But Upstate countered with 7-foot Michael Buchanan, who had 20 points and 15 rebounds, and the Spartans narrowed an 18-point first-half Auburn lead to single digits in the final minutes.
"I'm happy with being 5-1 after six games, but I'm not happy with the quality of our play. The stat sheet, I don't think tells the story, in the sense you score 90, you have 23 assists and seven turnovers, you shoot 53 percent in the second half... there are some numbers there, but we're not playing as well together as we need to.
"We can play better together," Pearl said.
The Tigers improved to 5-1 heading to Saturday's game at UAB. Upstate fell to 3-4.
LaRon Smith added 15 points and Ronnie Johnson and Jared Harper each scored 10. Auburn had eight dunks. But the 7-foot Buchanan did work around the basket, too.
"I don't think we had the effort and the energy and the tenacity to finish plays, and that's why they came back," Pearl said.
Upstate took off on a 13-0 in the closing minutes of the first half. The Tigers then went on a 13-1 through the end of the first half and into the early second stages of the second half
Auburn led 42-32 at the half.
The Spartans kept it reasonably close most of the second half, and a 12-2 run late cut Auburn's advantage to 84-79 with 1:26 left.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine
Bruce Pearl says he's happy with 5-1 record, but not in the quality of play after Auburn's 90-83 win over USC Upstate. Video pic.twitter.com/M5U8J7Rtha
-- Auburn Gold Mine (@AUGoldMine) November 30, 2016