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Fast start sparks Auburn's ninth straight win, 89-64 over UConn

Dec. 23, 2017

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By Jeff Shearer

AUBURN, Ala. - The students are on break but The Jungle rocked nonetheless, responding to Bruce Pearl's frequent exhortations in Auburn's 89-64 win Saturday over UConn at Auburn Arena, the Tigers' ninth consecutive victory.

"Really pleased with the environment," Pearl said. "We created a nice environment. I think our kids deserve that."

Desean Murray and Mustapha Heron each scored 13 points to lead five Tigers in double figures. Malik Dunbar scored 12, Jared Harper scored 11 and Davion Mitchell added 10.

Auburn held the Huskies to 25 percent shooting in the first half while building a 23-point lead.

"When we defensively get in a position where we dictate, we can be pretty good," Pearl said. "This team wants to get better, so we're really pleased to be going into the holiday 11-1."

Horace Spencer added nine points, 10 rebounds, three blocks and two steals in 19 minutes, drawing Pearl's praise for "his toughness, his physicality."

The crowd of 8,039 energized the Tigers, Spencer said.

"We definitely fed on it," Spencer said. "We can hear all of our fans cheering us on, showing the love they have for us." Dunbar's trio of 3-pointers highlighted a 16-0 run as Auburn continued a season-long trend of starting fast.

Murray gave Auburn a 10-point lead, scoring in the lane over larger defenders to put Auburn up 17-7.

After Harper's 3-pointer, Pearl turned to the crowd, raising his arms to encourage an increase in noise level.

Dunbar's third 3 put Auburn up 23-7. Harper's assist to Heron for a dunk made it 30-13. Spencer hit back-to-back buckets to extend the lead to 21.

Auburn survived a 4-minute scoring drought, with Harper's deep 3 with 9 seconds left putting Auburn up 47-24, matching its largest lead of the half.

Auburn maintained momentum in the second half, with Harper's even longer 3 extending the lead to 27.

Spencer's offensive rebound and slam put Auburn up 62-33. Mitchell's 3-pointer with 13:14 remaining pushed Auburn's lead to 34 at 67-33.

Auburn outrebounded UConn, 45-44. Chuma Okeke grabbed eight rebounds in 16 minutes. Murray added six boards.

Auburn improves to 11-1 for the first time since starting 16-1 in 1999-2000. The Tigers are off until next Saturday, when Auburn hosts Cornell at 2:30 p.m. in the final game before SEC play.

"The way we played, I think this is the best we've played," Pearl said. "On both sides of the ball, we seemed to have an idea of how we wanted to play the whole night. We've got ourselves a bit of an identity. I would say this is as well as we've played."

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



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