Fast start easily speeds No. 19 Auburn past LSU 95-70

Matthew Stevens
Montgomery Advertiser
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Auburn guard Mustapha Heron (5) hits a 3-pointer over LSU guard Randy Onwuasor (14) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018, in Auburn, Ala.

AUBURN — So much for those slow starts by Auburn.

A sold-out Auburn Arena was treated to an initial four-minute segment where the home team gave up the game’s first basket and then went on a 24-4 run to easily dispatch of LSU 95-70 on Saturday night.

Auburn hit 11 3-point shots in the first half that saw it post its ninth 50-point scoring effort in a half but only for the second time in the first half.

The 24-6 run from the opening tip was the ninth time No. 19 Auburn has had a double-digit lead this season before the 8-minute media timeout.

Auburn, which took a full game lead over Florida in the Southeastern Conference standings nearly halfway into the 18-game league slate, is now 10-2 against teams in the Top 100 of the latest Ratings Percentage Index and increased its argument to be a top 2 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.

The NCAA Tournament selection committee will reveal its top four seeds in each of the four regions on Feb. 11. Auburn’s current play has all but guaranteed it will be on that list of 16 teams.

Mustapha Heron reached his season-long scoring average before the first media timeout. The 6-foot-5 guard, who finished with a game-high 21 points, was practically the living embodiment of Auburn’s offense for the first five minutes of the contest.

"What a treat. How do you not sit back and look at Mustapha Heron and go, 'Wow,'" Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said.

Heron hit six of his first eight shots. The player who arrived Saturday shooting just 28.4 percent from beyond the 3-point arc nailed 14 triples in Auburn’s 12th straight home win, which is a program record for Auburn Arena.

"Just trying not to come out flat,” Heron said. “We’ll definitely working on our second half because we’ve definitely come out flat in second half and even first half. That’s definitely one thing we’ll focus on at Ole Miss and having the same type of energy we had today.”

Before leading at half at Missouri on Wednesday night, Auburn had been down at halftime in each of its last four league games, but Auburn has seemingly cured that problem with two impressive wins this week.

Auburn (19-2, 7-1 SEC) hit the double-digit mark on 3-point conversions with 5:42 left in the first half. After his team gave up a barely contested 3-point shot by Bryce Brown and a transition dunk by Chuma Okeke, LSU head coach Will Wade walked to the foul line with his hands in the air massively perturbed at LSU’s lack of effort on the defensive end.

Auburn forward Chuma Okeke dunks during the first half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against LSU on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018, in Auburn, Ala.

There was a point in the game where Auburn had only missed seven shots, but three of those misses were gobbled up by 6-foot-3 power forward Desean Murray. The transfer from Presbyterian, who has had double-figure scoring efforts in six of his last seven games, finished with 18 points and eight rebounds. Six of his rebounds were on the offensive end.

Murray was one of five Auburn players Saturday who finished in double figures with Heron, Okeke, Brown and Jared Harper.

The defensive effort of Harper and Davion Mitchell on LSU’s leading scorer Tremont Waters never let LSU (12-8, 3-5) make any run. Waters finished with just four points on 1-of-7 shooting and the freshman had six turnovers.

"What do you want to talk about? We got whipped in just about every way you can get whipped," Wade said. "I think at one point we had 10 total rebounds and they had 10 offensive rebounds. That's an effort issue."

Auburn will likely rise in the polls Monday morning after wins this week at Missouri and against LSU. It ends the month of January at Ole Miss at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

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