Freshman Mustapha Heron (above) looks for a lane towards the basket in Auburn's exhibition victory vs. Montevallo.
Auburn, Ala.--A year ago Auburn struggled to win its exhibition basketball game against a strong Division II?opponent, but this year winning wasn’t an issue for the Tigers. However, the way it happened did not satisfy Coach Bruce Pearl.
He spent more than an hour in the post-game locker room going over what he saw in Auburn’s 96-68 victory vs. Montevallo, a team expected to have a strong season in the Division II?ranks.
Asked what he was talking to his players about after the game on Friday night, Auburn’s third-year head coach said, “Turnovers or chemistry, and learning. We have so many things to learn as a young team. I wanted to go through all of those things. We are playing 10 guys so blending 10 players together in so many new pieces...it is very, very new.
“I thought our effort was good,” Pearl added. “I thought our pressure was good. I don’t think we played as well as we did (vs. Chattanooga) so you don’t like to step back.”
The Tigers played a private scrimmage vs. UT-Chattanooga the previous weekend. From now on all of the games count starting with a Friday 8:30 p.m. tipoff vs. defending Atlantic Sun Conference champion North Florida at Auburn Arena. It is the second game of a doubleheader with the AU women opening the season vs. Troy.
Mustapha Heron, a six-foot-five freshman guard, put on an impressive performance vs. Montevallo and led all scorers with 25 points. He hit 9-12 field goals, 5-6 free throws and joined in the parade of three-pointers. As a team the Tigers made 14-32 treys with Heron making 3-5.
“I think it is important for our team dynamic,” Heron said about the success from behind the three-point line. “We have a lot of good shooters at pretty much every position....Hopefully, we can keep it going through the season.”
Heron added six rebounds, three steals and an assist vs. Montevallo. Pearl noted that he was impressed by what he saw from the freshman.
“He is quiet, but he has got a lot of noise to his game,” the coach said. “I ?am on him hard because I want him to use his physicality of both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively. He is extremely coachable. The harder I get on him the more he seems to respond.”
Danjel Purifoy, a six-foot-seven redshirt freshman, was Auburn’s second leading scorer with 18 points vs. Montevallo. He hit 3-7 field goals, including 2-5 treys, and was 10-11 at the foul line with a team-high seven rebounds.
Danjel Purifoy had a successful debut as an Auburn player.
“You can see that he really can score,”?Pearl said. “Danjel is a really good teammate. He is another very coachable player. I can get on him all I want and he just handles it.
“Offensively, he will give people problems,” Pearl added. “Defensively, he is not a power forward and he is playing at that position. As a team we are going to have to rebound the ball and make up for what we lack in size.”
The Tigers held a 42-31 rebounding advantage in the exhibition game and outshot Montevallo 49.2 to 41.4 percent from the field. The Tigers were excellent at the foul line, making 22-26 free throws.