LaRon Smith (above) stuffs for the Tigers.
Cancun, Mexico--With a major size advantage inside and red-hot shooting from long range, 17th-ranked Purdue pulled away from the Auburn Tigers in the second half to defeat the Tigers 96-71 in the championship game of the Cancun Challenge.
Purdue made 17-26 three-point field goals and out-rebounded the Tigers 39-23 to improve to 4-1. The Tigers suffered their first loss of the young basketball season on Wednesday night as they fell to 4-1.
Danjel Purifoy and Mustapha Heron were named to the all-tournament team. Purifoy scored 22 points as he hit 6-11 field goals, 4-9 threes and 6-6 free throws. The rest of the Auburn team made just two treys.
Heron scored 15 points and T.J. Dunans came off the bench to score 10.
Purdue put six players in double figures led by 21 points from Vincent Edwards. The 6-8 forward was 7-11 from the field and hit 4-5 treys.
For the game the Boilermakers hit 64.3 percent from the field and were 7-13 at the foul line. Auburn made 41 percent of its shots, including 6-24 threes. The Tigers hit 15-18 free throws.
Auburn forced 21 turnovers and committed 13.
“We needed special and we didn’t get special,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said after the loss.
“Purdue is a big team, a good team,” he said. “We actually scored around the rim a little bit better than I thought we would. I thought we had to make threes, I thought we had to make shots, and we didn’t.
“I am disappointed that Purdue’s guards scored as well as they did,” the Auburn coach added. “Their backcourt really hurt us--they really hurt us in transition. I wanted to play fast, but they were better playing fast than we were so I am disappointed.”
The game was close much of the first half. Auburn built its largest lead of the period at the 9:31 mark as Heron hit a pair of free throws to make the score 23-20. From that point the Boilermakers went on an 18-4 run to build an 11-point lead.
Auburn responded with a run of its own and pulled ahead at 41-40 with the help of a pair of inside baskets by freshman forward Anfernee McLemore and a pair of free throws by T.J. Lang with 31.5 seconds left in the period. However, a three-pointer to beat the buzzer sent Purdue into the locker room up 43-41.
Purifoy led the Tigers in scoring in the first half with 13 points while Heron added eight points.
The Tigers hung close to Purdue despite hot shooting from the field and three-point range by the Boilermakers, who made 17-31 field goals (54.8 percent) to 13-31 for the Tigers (41.9 percent). Purdue hit 8-14 threes in the half while Auburn made 5-14.
Purdue was 1-5 at the foul line while Auburn hit 10-11, which helped the Tigers overcome a 21-13 rebounding deficit. Auburn also helped its cause by forcing 12 turnovers while making seven in the opening half.
Auburn’s last lead was in the opening minute of the second half on a three by Purifoy. However, the Tigers went cold with their shooting, going for more than six minutes without a field goal while the Boilermakers got hot from three-point range and built the lead to double figures at 62-52 with 11:26 to play.
Unfortunately for the Tigers the Boilermakers continue to shoot at a torrid pace and quickly built the lead to 74-54. The Tigers were not able to make a run in the final eight minutes as Purdue kept up its hot shooting until the final buzzer.
One of the few highlights for the Tigers was 21 forced turnovers. “We did a good job overall doubling the post,” Pearl said. “We turned (Isaac) Haas over eight times. We flew around, and that disrupted them, but then they were able to kick it out and take advantage of our overplay. I didn’t think offensively we executed well.
“It does tell you the potential that we have," Pearl said. "We are a young team. We played with a team like Purdue, and there are Auburn teams that could not. It had been since 2002 that Auburn had been in a tournament championship game like this. I am pleased. You look how good Texas Tech is, and they just slapped Utah State. Texas Tech is a NCAA Tournament team. We go one win against a NCAA Tournament team and a loss to a probably Sweet 16 team, and three good wins against North Florida, Georgia State and Eastern Kentucky.”
Worth Noting, Part 1: Purdue hit 19-25 field goals in the second half and was 9-12 on three-pointers. The Tigers made 12-30 second half shots and hit just 1-10 treys in the period.
Worth Noting, Part 2: Ronnie Johnson, a former starter at Purdue, got his first start at Auburn, but the graduate transfer was just 1-4 from the field on the way to scoring two points.
Stat of the Game: Five different Purdue players hit more than one three-point shot on Wednesday night.
Up Next: The Tigers will play USC-Update at 7 p.m. on Tuesday at Auburn Arena.