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22 Days to Tip-Off - Mustapha Heron

A very familiar face is on our countdown at #22 today.

NCAA Basketball: Texas A&M at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

It’s kinda hard to believe that in the four weeks since beginning this countdown, we haven’t talked about Mustapha Heron and his big scoring games. That changes today.

So I remember this game rather distinctively for multiple reasons.

First off, it was my birthday, which sounds cool and all going to a game on your birthday but games on my birthday don’t usually go well for me and A&M had me worried knowing how talented they were, especially on the interior.

Second of all, it was an 8PM tip-off and I had a 6:30 Business Finance Exam (which I carefully rushed through to get it done and made it to the game with 30 minutes to spare). For those wondering, yes, I did pass the exam.

Third, there’s a few games that I attended while at Auburn that despite losing the game, I remember being fun games to be at. This was one of those games. Last year’s Kentucky game in Auburn was another.

Anyways, enough about me, today we get to look at one of the best games from a guy who believed in Auburn Basketball before many of us did. Heron was a five-star prospect coming out of high school who believed in Bruce Pearl and the program he was building on the Plains.

Total Points: 28

Date: February 7, 2018

Opponent: Texas A&M

Final Score: Texas A&M 81 Auburn 80

This one hurt for some of the reasons listed above but it’s the only game Auburn lost at home all season long. Auburn came into this game at 21-2 and 9-1 in the SEC, 3 games better than any other SEC team. Texas A&M came in highly touted in the preseason but had failed to live up to expectations. The Aggies seemed to play either up or down to the level of their competition. The good Aggies showed up in Auburn that rainy Wednesday night.

Mustapha’s stat line on the night was 8-15 from the field, 2-8 from 3-point range and 10-11 from the free throw line.

Mustapha’s first basket came 3 minutes in and gave Auburn a early 7-5 lead. His first 3 of the night came 2 minutes later. But like I said earlier, this was a night the Aggies seemingly couldn’t miss. Mustapha would not score again until the 5 minute mark in the 1st half when he would make a dunk off a nice assist from Jared Harper. That possession was sandwiched by A&M possessions of dunks for them. Heron would make 4 free throws as the half wound down but Auburn fell behind double digits before Mustapha would get a steal and throw down one of his better dunks of the season, a reverse breakaway dunk that would get the Auburn crowd back in it before the break. Auburn trailed 46-36 at halftime and this was the game where Bryce Brown hurt his shoulder and would miss the second half of this one.

Heron and the rest of the team would do their best to climb back into the game but the 2nd half didn’t start well as the Aggies started the half on a 7-0 run to lead by 17. I remember standing there thinking that the Tigers had a run in them and shortly there after, Auburn would begin to chip away.

With 14:17 to go, Heron would make a 3 right in front of me to cut A&M’s lead down to 8 at 59-51. The Jungle was starting to get back into the game too. Mustapha would connect on 4 free throws around the 12 minute mark to cut A&M’s lead to 63-58. After 2 more free throws at the 10:48 mark, things got fun for Heron, the Tigers, and yours truly.

A&M took a 67-60 lead with 9:30 to go. Desean Murray would hit a 3 on the other end and on A&M’s next possession Horace Spencer blocked a shot, Spencer got the ball to Jared Harper who passed it to Heron got the ball and went to the basket for a tough layup to make it a 67-65 game. On the next possession, Heron would play great defense and force a tough shot, which was missed, and he got the rebound and went coast to coast for the game tying layup with 8:12 left. Auburn would take the lead after a steal and layup from Jared Harper on the next possession. Auburn had come all the way back from being down 17 and Auburn Arena was going crazy!

Give A&M credit though, they responded like good teams do and score the next 6 to go up 73-69. A&M would take a 80-74 lead with 2:25 before Heron would make his last bucket of the night finishing a lob pass for a tough lay-in. Auburn would tie the game at 80 but a foul call with 4 seconds left sent A&M to the line. The Aggies would go 1-2 from the line and Heron had a open look from about 35 feet away that would have won the game but it was off the mark and A&M got a huge road win that they needed for their resume and Auburn suffered a heartbreaking loss, especially for me being on my birthday.

For a entire video that shows everything you just read.....

Heron looks to have a big senior season at St. John’s this year after averaging 14.6 points a game with the Red Storm last year. And personally, I hope he does just that.

Here’s the game highlights from this one.

Tomorrow at #21, we go wayyyyyy back and I’ll leave it at that!