Mustapha Heron (above) looks for room to operate vs. Boston College.
New York City, N.Y.--Dominating Auburn on the boards, the final rebound by Boston College with two-tenths of a second left gave the Eagles a 72-71 basketball victory over the Tigers on Monday night.
Auburn was out-rebounded 49-32 in the contest in which the Tigers trailed all but two minutes and 55 seconds at Madison Square Garden.
Auburn fell to 6-2 with the loss while Boston College improved to 5-5 thanks to the late basket by 6-11 freshman Nic Popovic.
The Tigers got 27 points from Danjel Purifoy, who hit two free throws with 7.5 seconds left to put the Tigers up by one point. His three-pointer from he wing put the Tigers up 67-65 with 2:51 remaining and then the Tigers got a basket by Mustapha Heron to give AU its largest lead of the night at 69-65 with 2:01 to play.
Heron scored 15 points for the Tigers, who did not have a third player in double figures. Horace Spencer was next in scoring with seven points.
Boston College got 23 points from Jerome Robinson and 15 from Ky Bowman.
In addition to the rebounding problem the Tigers didn’t shoot well from the field, making 22-60 shots (36.7 percent). Auburn was 8-25 on threes and 19-23 at the foul line.
The Eagles hit 27-61 field goals (44.3 percent) and were 7-22 on threes and 11-19 at the foul line.
Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said his team’s effort wasn’t a problem, but noted the Tigers had multiple issues that cost them vs. Boston College.
“We didn’t execute on the offensive end and we turned the ball over way too much,” he said. “Our lack of an inside offense is just so glaring the only way we can get to the foul line is to just drive it and they sagged pretty good and we didn’t kick it often enough or properly enough. We missed a lot of shots.”
The coach said his team’s defense left something to be desired. “They drove it to the basket any time they wanted to,”? he said. “We had to block 11 shots on the inside...I didn’t think our kids competed very well defensively on the perimeter.”
Purifoy, who hit 8-14 field goals, 4-7 threes and 7-7 free throws while adding five rebounds, won praise from the coach. “He played great,” Pearl said. “Danjel does a good job of not forcing the action. He lets the game come to him.”
Purifoy scored a season-high 27 points.
The Tigers were sluggish early, falling behind 12-2 at the 16:04 mark. Auburn tied the contest late in the half, but after a three-pointer by Purifoy made the score 38-38 the Eagles outscored the Tigers 5-1 to close the period.
Purifoy led the Tigers in the first half with 18 points as the Tigers hit 13-31 field goals (41.9 percent), 5-11 threes and 8-10 free throws. Boston College made 15-32 field goals (45.9 percent), 6-12 threes and 7-11 free throws in the opening 20 minutes.
Both teams struggled with ball-handling. Auburn, which averaged just 13 turnovers per game, had 14 in the first half. Boston College turned the ball over 16 times in the half, but enjoyed a 25-15 rebounding advantage.
Auburn’s ball-handling improved in the second half as the Tigers had just two more turnovers while the Eagles finished the game with 22.
As was the case in the opening half the Tigers struggled to score early in the second period, but Auburn’s defense didn’t allow the Eagles to build more than an eight-point lead.
The Tigers took their first lead at 61-60 on a rebound by freshman Anfernee McLemore with 6:49 to play.
Pearl said he appreciated the good turnout of Auburn fans at Madison Square Garden. "We made more of a statement off the court than on," he said. "Unfortunately, that is what I have done so far...Our guys did not take advantage of the kind of support we are getting and we are going to keep working at it."
Worth Noting, Part 1: Senior guard T.J. Dunans did not dress out for the game and the report from AU was that he was suffering from a stomach illness. Pearl said not having Dunans available was an issue for the Tigers.
Worth Noting, Part 2: The Tigers outscored Boston College 19-8 in points off of turnovers.
Worth Noting, Part 3: The Tigers blocked a season-high 11 shots with six by Spencer, who added four steals.
Worth Noting, Part 4: T.J. Lang was injured in the game. Pearl said he doesn't know how serious the issue is for the junior guard.
Stat of the Game: Boston College’s plus-17 in rebounding was the key statistic, which helped the Eagles outscore the Tigers 36-22 for points in the paint.
Up Next: The Tigers will take on Coastal Carolina at 8 p.m. on Thursday at Auburn Arena.