Danjel Purifoy (above) tied his career scoring high.
Auburn, Ala.--Tying the SEC record with 21 made three-pointers, the Auburn Tigers took control early and cruised to a 117-72 basketball victory on Thursday night vs. Coastal Carolina.
Danjel Purifoy scored 27 points, matching his collegiate high set on Monday. Mustapha Heron scored 17 points while Jared Harper added 16 points.
"Everybody was making threes out of nowhere," Purifoy said. "People coming off the bench, walk-ons coming off the bench, making a lot of threes. It was fun to watch."
The Tigers finished with five players in double figures on a night two starters (Horace Spencer and Bryce Brown) were suspended after being charged with a misdemeanor marijuana possession.
Ronnie Johnson came off the bench to score 11 points and T.J. Dunans added 10 points and five assists in a reserve role.
“I think from just a standpoint of what it’s supposed to look like, what it can look like, that was about as good as it’s gotten since I’ve been here," Coach Bruce Pearl said. "I didn’t see it coming given all of the adversity we’ve that we’ve had this week, but the adversity tends to reveal character, it doesn’t build it, and perhaps in some ways, our character got revealed tonight.
"It’s the best we’ve played offensively together, and we got a lot of good looks," Pearl said. "We spread the floor and we were hard to guard because of how we shot it, and spread it. I thought it really started on the defensive end because the last couple of games we have not been cohesive defensively. We have not been protecting each other. We had a little bit of leaving guys out there on an island by themselves, but I thought tonight we got in the gaps, we showed some help, we rotated, and it was good defensively. We played better defensively, together, and I think it definitely translated to the offensive end.”
Auburn improved to 7-2 with the win while Coastal Carolina fell to 5-7.
Coastal Carolina coach Cliff Ellis was impressed with the Tigers. “Without question Auburn played lights out,” he said. “You have got to give them all the credit. It was 25-22 and then all of the sudden it just went haywire and shots started falling. It just caught on with everybody. Everybody starting feeling the magic and we couldn’t buy it.”
Auburn’s hot streak produced a 23-0 run that was way too much for the visitors to overcome on a night when the Tigers made 40-72 field goals (57.1 percent), 21-42 threes and 16-22 free throws.
“It was tough,” Ellis said. “It was tough to watch.”
In contrast the Chanticleers made just 25-78 field goals (32.1 percent), 8-36 threes and 14-23 free throws.
Auburn also out-rebounded Coastal Carolina 48-40 with freshman Anfernee McLemore leading the way with eight rebounds to go with nine points in 18 minutes off the bench. Heron, Purifoy and LaRon Smith each added seven rebounds.
“I felt like I stepped up to the role that BP gave me to fill,” McLemore said. “I felt like I stepped up as a meaningful presence in the paint.”
Anfernee McLemore boxes out for one of his team-high eight rebounds
With a strong run late in the first half the Tigers put up 56 points in the period while holding the Chanticleers to just 27. The Tigers did a significant amount of damage from outside in the opening 20 minutes as they hit 10-19 three-pointers. A pair of freshmen led the assault. Purifoy scored 17 in the opening half while Harper added 12 points on a night he finished with seven assists and one turnover.
The Tigers weren’t bad inside either, holding a 16-2 advantage for points in the paint to go with a 20-5 edge in points off of turnovers.
Auburn hit 54.1 percent in the opening half while allowing Coastal Carolina to make just 10-38 field goals (26.3 percent).
The second half wasn’t much better for the visitors who were outscored 61-45 despite Pearl clearing the bench and playing his walk-ons in the closing minutes.
Ellis said his team needed to out-rebound the Tigers, but that didn't happen as it finished minus eight in rebound margin. "We have been rebounding well," he said. "Our biggest concern coming in was handling the press and we handled, but when it was 25-22 we threw a couple of balls away. We were not expecting that three-point performance."
Asked about his new starting lineup with LaRon Smith replacing Spencer at center and T.J. Lang replacing Brown, Pearl said, “I thought it was good. You know, for me, we play best when everybody contributes. I thought we got great contribution tonight, from everyone.
"I thought Anfernee McLemore showed that he’s probably better at the five than he is at the four and the closer to the basket he gets, the better he looks," Pearl said. He can finish, he can rebound in traffic, he’s an improved defender and rim protector. We play better as a team when T.J. Dunnans plays well and facilitates. You got really good point guard play again from both Jared and Ronnie, big games, big numbers.
"Danjel continues to show you what I’ve been talking about for a few years. I’ve said he’s my best pro. He had 17 at halftime, I wouldn’t have even guessed he had seven because he’s just quiet. He lets it come to him. I know at times he’s feeling it, and he had the freedom and ability to go ahead and make those tough plays, and that’s an enjoyable aspect of him. He guarded, he was engaged. We needed this one tonight, and we just have to keep building on it.”
Worth Noting, Part 1: Auburn signee Austin Wiley, a five-star center, was in attendance watching the contest. He is hoping to qualify in time to join the team in December as an early high school graduate.
Worth Noting, Part 2: Purifoy, who was 5-10 and Harper who was 5-6, led the Tigers in three-pointers.
Worth Noting, Part 3: Auburn outscored the Chanticleers 32-20 for points in the pain and 26-14 in points off of turnovers.
Stat of the Game: Auburn’s 117 points is the fifth highest total in school history.
Up Next: The Tigers return to action with a noon home game on Sunday vs. Mercer.