After leading by as many as 25 points in the second half, the Auburn Tigers (9-1) held off a furious comeback to defeat the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (7-2) 76-70 at the Legacy Arena in Birmingham on Saturday evening. Auburn improves to 9-1 for the first time since the 2007-2008 season. The win also snaps Middle Tennessee’s 5 game win streak against SEC teams.
Auburn led from start to finish as the Tigers built a 42-25 lead at halftime and then a 53-28 lead with 16 minutes left before Middle Tennessee began their comeback. Auburn had 6 guys with at least 8 points, including 4 in double figures. Jared Harper and Mustapha Heron led the Tigers with 16 points each. In addition, Harper had 7 assists while Heron had 6 rebounds. Chuma Okeke had 14 points and 5 rebounds while Horace Spencer added a season-high 11 points, along with 7 rebounds. Bryce Brown had 9 points and Anfernee McLemore had 8 points and 4 blocks.
The game was filled with a lot of turnovers and fouls as Auburn had 21 turnovers but forced the Blue Raiders into 24 turnovers. Auburn forced 16 of those in the 1st half, more than the Blue Raiders had committed in their previous 2 games (15). In addition, Middle Tennessee had 4 players foul out, including senior guard Giddy Potts who led the Blue Raiders with 19 points before fouling out with 8:22 left. For Auburn, Malik Dunbar was ejected about picking up two technical fouls while the Tigers led by 22.
Auburn did a good job of holding Nick King, who led Middle Tennessee with 24.3 points per game to just 12 points in today’s contest. The Tigers will look to move to 10-1 in their next contest as they travel to Murray, Kentucky on Tuesday evening to take on the Murray State Racers. The game will tip off at 7PM.