Tiger Trio: Murray's mismatch, hotshot Harper, Dunbar's debut in Auburn basketball win over UAB

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Tiger Trio: Murray's mismatch, hotshot Harper, Dunbar's debut in Auburn basketball win over UAB

Bryce Brown scored 27 points to lead Auburn to an 85-80 win Saturday over UAB

Dec. 9, 2017

By Jeff Shearer

AUBURN, Ala. - After a rare cold shooting game, Bryce Brown remained at Auburn Arena long into the night on Wednesday, regaining his stroke in the practice gym.

"I know my percentages had to be better for us to beat [UAB]," said Brown of his 2-for-13 outing in Auburn's 80-55 win over Gardner-Webb.

Brown hit six 3-pointers and scored 27 points helping Auburn improve to 8-1 in Saturday's 85-80 win over UAB at Auburn Arena. "I moved on from that game pretty fast. I wanted to make sure I was in the right spots and hitting the shots."

With fellow leading scorer Mustapha Heron (15.9 point per game) sidelined by back spasms, Brown scored 23 in the first half, including 14 consecutive points to give Auburn a 32-20 lead. He was 6 of 9 on 3-pointers and 8 of 14 overall.

"Bryce Brown's playing really good basketball," Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. "Not just shooting the ball."

Against the Blazers, Brown played a team-high 35 minutes with a 3:1 assist to turnover ratio and three rebounds.

Here are three takeaways from Auburn's sixth straight win.

Mismatch Murray

At 6-foot-3, Desean Murray will be the SEC's smallest power forward. His height disadvantage has not prevented Murray from leading Auburn in rebounds, averaging eight per game.

Against UAB, Murray scored 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds, impressing his teammates with his prowess in the paint.

"He helps our team, defensively, offensively, always attacking the boards," said point guard Jared Harper. "Even though he's undersized, he plays just as big as any big out there, if not bigger. He's a matchup problem for other teams at the four [position]."

"He can drive past any four," said Brown, "but he can rebound over any four. We have an advantage all around at the four position with Desean there. Desean has been a great piece and a great addition to this team."

Hotshot Harper keys fast start 3.0

For the third straight game, the Tigers quickly built a double-digit lead. It took fewer than five minutes for Auburn to go up by 11 against UAB. Harper's 3-pointer at the 15:20 mark gave Auburn a 15-4 lead.

The Tigers extended the lead to 15 on Murray's tip-in with 7:07 remaining in the first half.

Harper scored 13 of his 21 points in the first 5:05, including a trio of 3-pointers, two from NBA range.

"I knew I had to be more aggressive," said Harper, who added five assists and two rebounds. "I'm still looking to get people involved, but throughout warmup, I felt like my shot was going in. I felt like I had the opportunities to get my shots."

In Auburn's 79-63 win Sunday against George Mason, the Tigers raced to a 22-2 lead. In Wednesday's victory over Gardner-Webb, the Tigers took a 21-4 lead.

Dunbar Debut

With Heron out, Malik Dunbar made his first Auburn start.

Dunbar delivered in the final minutes, scoring back-to-back buckets on offensive rebounds.

With Auburn leading 78-75, Dunbar followed a missed layup with a basket to put Auburn up 80-75 with 1:30 to play.

On Auburn's next possession, Dunbar did it again, rebounding a missed shot and scoring to give Auburn an 82-78 lead.

"Huge," said Pearl. "And a big defensive rebound late."

The junior scored his first points on an alley-oop dunk after Brown's steal, giving Auburn a 45-36 lead near the end of the half.

Dunbar's driving layup and free throw put Auburn up 53-42 early in the second half. He finished with nine points and six rebounds.

After final exams, Auburn returns to the court Saturday against Middle Tennessee in the Birmingham Jam.

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

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