Photography: John Reed

Defense, Three-Point Shooting Spark Auburn's Basketball Season-Opening Victory

The Auburn basketball team opened its season with a comfortable victory over North Florida.

Danjel Purifoy (above) helped Auburn shut down one of North Florida's key players, Chris Davenport.

Auburn, Ala.--Four Auburn basketball players scored in double figures with sophomore guard Bryce Brown leading the way with 19 points as Auburn opened the 2016-17 basketball regular season with an 83-66 victory over North Florida on Friday night.

The Tigers led for all but eight seconds of the game and built a margin of as many as 30 points at the 15:46 mark of the second half. However, the Tigers cooled off with their shooting and had a generally sloppy finish to the game, but the large lead was too much for the defending A-Sun champions to overcome.

The Tigers held North Florida star Dallas Moore to five points as he made just one of 13 field goal attempts. Romelo Banks, a six-foot-ten center, led the Ospreys with 16 points and 10 rebounds.

“I thought we did a great job on Dallas Moore,” said Coach Bruce Pearl, who gave Associate Head Coach Chuck Person credit for coming up with a good defensive game plan. “He (Moore) was a real focus for us.

“Overall, I thought our defense was tremendous,” Pearl said. “In the second half we didn’t play as well defensively and I was disappointed in our rebounding, but to hold a team that averages 84 to 66 is good.”

The Tigers got 14 points from Danjel Purifoy and 10 apiece from Jared Harper and Mustapha Heron.

"It was kind of nice to be up 30 with 15 minutes to go, but I have got to find out why we kind of stopped and they kept on going, they kept on playing," Pearl said. "I thought we had played pretty well for the first 25 minutes."

Brown, who hit 6-11 field goals and 5-10 threes, added three steals, two rebounds and one assist in 25 minutes.

Photography: John Reed

Bryce Brown launches a three-pointer.

"When you see your teammates shooting well, you want to chuck one up there one time and see how it goes," said Brown, who added, "They felt good so we just kept going and fed off each other."

Purifoy said what the Tigers did when North Florida had the ball was a key to building the big lead. "The first half we played outstanding defense," the redshirt freshman forward said. "We didn't let Moore get the shots he wanted to get. Give credit to all the guards and all the bigs who had to switch out on him and keep him from going left.

"In the second half we kind of let up a little bit and we kind of blew the lead so we really just have to keep that intensity and keep going."

Inside the Auburn Tigers/

Danjel Purifoy looks to make an in-bounds pass vs. North Florida.

The first half was close much of the first way before the Tigers made a 9-0 run to push the lead to double figures at 33-21 with 5:11 to play before intermission.

The Tigers took control with a combination of solid defense and good shooting. Auburn forced 13 first half turnovers that led to 11 points off turnovers. Pearl’s team hit 15-31 first half field goals, including 10-17 treys.

Eight Auburn players scored in the first half with Brown leading the way with 11 as he hit 3-5 threes. Purifoy and Heron scored 10 points in the first half and T.J. Lang made all three of his shots, each treys, to contribute nine points.

The defense of point guards Jared Harper and Ronnie Johnson kept North Florida star Dallas Moore in check. He made just 1-9 shots in the opening half.

Auburn was out-rebounded 42-36, but made up for that by forcing 28 turnovers.

The Tigers were out-shot in the second half. North Florida made 12-21 field goals in the final 20 minutes while Auburn hit 10-29.

For the game Auburn hit 25-60 field goals (41.7 percent) while the Ospreys hit 22-57 (38.6 percent). Auburn made 20-31 free throws and North Florida made 16-24.

Worth Noting, Part 1: Auburn’s 10 first half three-pointers was one shy of the Auburn Arena record.

Worth Noting, Part 2: The Tigers held power forward Chris Davenport to 2-6 shooting and limited him to five points, three rebounds and forced him to foul out with six turnovers in 19 minutes. Pearl said that Davenport was one of the players “who could beat the Tigers” along with Moore.

Worth Noting, Part 3: The Tigers finished minus six in rebound margin. "That is going to be a real problem for us," Pearl said. "That was a good team, but it was not a big, physical team. We are going to have to do some soul-searching. Georgia State has a couple players who will challenge my inside players if they don't man up."

Stat of the Game: Auburn made seven more three-pointers than North Florida, which was 6-20 compared to 13-32 for the Tigers.

Up Next: The Tigers will play at home Monday with an 8 p.m. tipoff vs. Georgia State, which was a 111-69 winner on Friday night vs. Thomas University.

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