Danjel Purifoy (above) tied for the team leading in scoring with 19 points.
Auburn, Ala.--Needing a spark to pull away from Georgia State on Monday night the Tigers got that from Jared Harper in the second half to turn a close basketball game into a comfortable 83-65 Auburn victory.
The freshman point guard scored 19 points as he hit 5-10 field goals, including 4-6 from behind the three-point line. He added four rebounds, three assists and two steals plus plenty of moxie.
“It was kind of nice to watch Jared Harper take over,” Coach Bruce Pearl said.
“Jared is a very smart player,” Pearl pointed out. “He picks up on everything very quickly.”
Jared Harper drives to the basket vs. the Panthers.
Georgia State head coach Ron Hunter was also impressed by Harper. "At the end of the (first) half he started to get going a little. bit," Hunter said. "He started to feel more comfortable. He did a really nice job--he really got the ball deep. Then they saw the ball go in."
Hunter said that Harper was a good addition to the AU roster. "As long as he is here Auburn should be good."
The Tigers also got 19 points from Danjel Purifoy, who did his damage in the second half when the Tigers outscored the Panthers 48-35.
“The whole game I planned on playing for one of my teammates, LaRon Smith, because they treated him bad at Georgia State because he didn’t get to play much,” Purifoy said of the graduate transfer. “We told him we were going to come out and get this win for him.
“In the second half that is what I came out with--that is what I had on my mind the whole time, just playing for LaRon,” Purifoy added.
The redshirt freshman, who hit 5-7 field goals and 8-10 free throws, said that Smith really appreciated the win on a night he blocked three shots and added two points and one rebound.
“He was just all teeth,” Purifoy said. “You couldn’t get him to stop smiling. That is something good to see because we got that win for him.”
Pearl was smiling, too. “It’s nice to be 2-0, I don’t think I?have been 2-0 at Auburn,”?the coach said. With the victory the Tigers are 2-0 to open the season for the first time since 2011-12.
Auburn got 12 points from sophomore forward Horace Spencer and 10 from Mustapha Heron, the six-foot-five freshman guard who led the Tigers in rebounding with eight.
For the game the Tigers shot 47.2 percent. Auburn hit 56 percent of its shots in the second half after making just 39.3 percent in the first 20 minutes.
Georgia State made 36.7 percent of its field goals and was just 5-23 on threes. The Panthers were 16-24 at the foul line and were out-rebounded by the Tigers 39-35 thanks to a surge on the boards in the second half.
Auburn hit 7-21 three-pointers and 26-39 free throws. The Tigers forced 18 turnovers and committed 13.
“I thought we were very stagnant in the first half and much better in the second half,” Pearl said of his team’s offense. “It is probably one of the better second half defenses we have had...A good team effort.”
Asked about becoming more aggressive in the second half in directing the offense, Harper said, “We struggled a little bit shooting the ball in the first half. In the second half I tried to dish out to my teammates and let them get going and then I saw it was pretty much on me to get the team going.”
The freshman did that with his long-range three-pointers as the Tigers began pulling away from the Panthers, who dropped to 1-1 on the season.
Asked what the team did to pull away from the Panthers in the second half, Harper said, "I think we locked in defensively. Maybe in the first half we had a lot of turnovers that led to easy baskets. In the half court our defense was good, but we controlled our turnovers more (in the second half) and then we made easier for ourselves to be able to defend."
The first half was tight with neither team able to build much of an advantage. The largest lead was the five-point advantage the Tigers held at the half with the score 35-30.
Purifoy got into early foul trouble and played less than three minutes in the half. Harper, who hit a pair of threes late in the half, was Auburn’s top scorer at the break with eight points.
The Tigers struggled with their shooting in the opening half, hitting just 11-28 field goals, 3-12 threes and 10-19 free throws. The Panthers made 11-25 field goals, 1-9 threes and were 7-11 at the foul line.
Georgia State out-rebounded the Tigers 20-15 in the first half, but turned the ball over 15 times, seven more than the Tigers.
Worth Noting, Part 1: Backup point guard Ronnie Johnson won praise from Pearl. In 13 minutes he finished with a team-best five assists with just one turnover to go with a steal.
Worth Noting, Part 2: Freshman Anfernee McLemore continues to contribute off the bench. In eight minutes he made both of his field goals, scored four points and pulled in five rebounds.
Stat of the Game: The Tigers hit 14-25 field goals in the second half and made 16-20 foul shots after intermission.
Up Next: The Tigers continue play in Cancun Challenge with an 8 p.m. home game on Thursday vs. Eastern Kentucky.