Heramb, who scored 23 points all of last year as a freshman, made 3-4 three-pointers on a night when starter Frank Tolbert had one of the worst games of his career.
Matt Heramb (right) had a great night. Frank Tolbert (left) struggled the entire game. Heramb's previous high-point game was seven points.
"Matt's outside shooting gave me more inside touches," said Auburn junior forward Korvotney Barber, who led all scorers with 22 points. Barber was also the game's leading rebounder with 10. Barber made 11-14 field goals on the way to his career high scoring game as he used his quickness inside to help the Tigers take charge in the second half.
Barber said after the game that Heramb has improved this year in practice, but said he didn't see a 17-point game coming from a player who had gotten off to a slow start in AU's first two regular season contests.
Coach Jeff Lebo admitted he was surprised, too. "Heramb had an awful practice yesterday," Lebo said. Heramb himself agreed with that assessment from his coach. The 6-9 sophomore played 22 minutes and added an assist and had just one turnover. He was also 2-2 at the foul line.
No other Tigers scored in double figures other than Heramb and Barber, who scored 26 of Auburn's 28 second half points.
Quantez Robertson scored eight points for the Tigers and DeWayne Reed added six. Tolbert, who was 0-4 on threes and 1-11 overall from the field, finished with six points and spent much of the second half on the bench.
"It wasn't a Frank type game," said Lebo, who added, "He looked out of whack tonight. He will be back. You know that."
Neither team could build a large lead in the first half. The Hornets moved ahead 4-0 to start the game, but the Tigers took the lead at 8-7 six minutes into the contest on basket by Barber.
Auburn's last lead of the half was 22-21 with 8:42 left before intermission when Lucas Hargrove made his first foul shot on a one-on-one situation.
The Hornets scored the next seven points before the Tigers tied the game at 28-28 with a three-pointer from DeWayne Reed at the 6:17 mark. Auburn scored just seven more points the rest of the half and trailed 29-35 at the break.
The Hornets kept the lead until the 17:37 mark of the second half when Barber scored on a fastbreak basket.
Alabama State scored the next six points, but Auburn made another run. This time the Tigers pulled ahead on a rebound basket by Barber with 8:25 to play, putting AU up 50-49.
The Tigers built the lead to 59-52 with 3:14 left on a basket by Heramb, but the Hornets closed to the gap to 59-57 with 1:33 to play.
Barber then scored 11 seconds later on a layup and Tolbert made both ends of a 1-1 with 11 seconds left to push out the lead to 63-57.
Brandon Brooks threw up a prayer under pressure from three that was answered with 2.6 seconds left to cut the lead to three. The Hornets fouled the Tigers before they could throw an in-bounds pass. Reed missed the front end of a one-and-one and Alabama State's Joel Bosh threw up a bomb from past the halfcourt stripe that bounced off the rim at the buzzer.
"We gutted that one out with seven (scholarship) guys and Frank playing as poorly as he did," Lebo said. "Matt Heramb stepped up and was a big difference-maker in the game."
Although he had just three rebounds, Lebo said he liked the way Heramb helped on the boards on a night when the Tigers were even more short-handed than usual. Seven-foot-one center Boubacar Sylla tried to play with an ankle sprain, but was on the floor for just one minute.
Auburn switched to a two-three zone in the second half and was effective with that vs. the Hornets after playing a trapping man to man defense in the first half. "We had to switch to zone because we were tired and fatigued," Lebo said.
Brooks and Richard Lott led the Hornets, who fell to 2-1, with the loss. Auburn, now 2-1, will play at Charleston Southern on Monday night.
The Tigers hit 24-50 field goals for 48 percent while ASU made 24-61 for 39.3 percent. Auburn was 7-22 on threes and 8-15 at the foul line. The Hornets hit 9-32 threes and 3-9 free throws at the Joe L. Reed Acadome as a crowd of 4,663 watched.
Auburn held a 40-27 rebound edge, but turned the ball over 18 times, seven more than the home team.
"We came into a tough environment with people laying in wait," said Lebo, who said he scheduled to game for Auburn fans in Montgomery to see the team. However, most of the crowd was dressed in ASU gold.
"It is a two-for-one series," Lebo added. "We are going to play them twice at home. Whenever you go on the road it is tough and I don't care who you play. We are happy to get out of here with a win."
Game Notes: Andrew Hayles, the younger brother of former Tiger Daniel Hayles, finished with four points and four assists in 37 minutes of court time for the Hornets. He was 1-12 from the field...Rasheem Barrett was just 1-5 with his shooting from the field, but chipped in with seven rebounds...The Tigers limited ASU 7-1 center Chief Kickingstallionsims to two rebounds, but he did score eight points in 23 minutes of action...Auburn improved its all-time record vs. Alabama State to 3-0. The previous two games were played at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum....DeWayne Reed and Quantez Robertson played the entire game for the Tigers...Rasheem Barrett was on the court for 36 minutes. Other that Boubacar's Sylla's cameo appearance and Heramb, the only other sub who got in the game for the Tigers was Lucas Hargrove, who scored three points and added one assist with a turnover in six minutes.