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5 Days to Tip-Off - Mustapha Heron

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This game was part of a very special and memorable weekend on the Plains for me and Auburn fans!

NCAA Basketball: Auburn at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

It was Black Friday in 2017 and the day before Auburn and Alabama played in the Iron Bowl with the SEC West on the line. I remember getting back to Auburn early that afternoon to be at this game. It was Charles Barkley Appreciation Night as the school was set to unveil a brand new statue of Barkley right outside of Auburn Arena the following morning.

While basketball had gotten off to a 3-1 start, most folks were still all in on football and quite understandably so. As for basketball, if you like offense, this was your game. Auburn shot 14-25 from 3-point range while Winthrop shot 13-31 from 3-point range. 12 players scored for Auburn in this contest but the leading scorer for Auburn was Mustapha Heron who put up an Auburn career high of 31 points as the Tigers scored 119 on Winthrop.

Total Points: 31

Date: November 24, 2017

Opponent: Winthrop

Final Score: Auburn 119 Winthrop 85

In just 27 minutes, Heron was 11-17 from the free throw line, 2-4 from the 3-point line and made all 7 free throw attempts. He also had 10 rebounds and 3 steals.

Mustapha’s layup 80 seconds into the game got Auburn on the board first. His next basket was something special. Heron tipped and stole an in-bounds pass, ran the length of the floor and rose up to throw down a one hand dunk with a defender under the basket.

Mustapha scored again with 10 minutes left in the half, a long 2 off a nice feed from Malik Dunbar to make it 22-13. Winthrop would hang tough for awhile as they would go on a 14-3 run to take a 27-25 lead with 7:24 left in the half. Auburn would retake the lead with 6:09 left as Heron made a triple in front of Winthrop’s bench to put the Tigers up 32-29. This was the start of a 29-7 run to end the half for Auburn.

Heron would make a pair of free throws seconds later after Winthrop missed a pair of free throws and Heron got his 2nd steal of the game. Heron would steal another Winthrop pass on the next possession and finished on the other end with a 2 hand dunk as he completed a 9-0 run to put Auburn up 36-29.

My favorite Heron basket, and one of my favorite dunks of the season came 2 possessions later. I remember checking my phone looking at scores from the day as Auburn was running a break. Heron had caught a pass on the fast-break and I looked up just in time to see go up, around the rim and throw down a phenomenal 1 handed dunk! The lesson here is stay off of your phone at basketball games, you might miss something special. (The play is around the 0:56 second mark of the highlight video below)

Mustapha would convert a 3-point play with 1:33 left in the half as Auburn built a 58-36 lead at halftime behind 18 points, 7 rebounds and 3 steals from Heron.

In the 2nd half, Heron’s jumper 2 12 minutes was his first points of the half as Auburn led 66-40. Another Heron layup 3 minutes later gave Auburn a 73-50 lead. Mustapha would score again with 2 free throws with 9:10 left to give Auburn a 30 point lead at 93-63. A jumper with 7:30 left and then 2 free throws with 6 minutes left pushed Auburn’s lead to 99-63. Heron would put Auburn over the century mark with 5:34 left as the Tigers led 102-66. Heron would foul out with 4:44 left but with a career high in points as the Tigers had 104-72 at that point in the game and the walk-ons came in shortly after this point in the game to finish it off for the Tigers.

Tomorrow at #4 in the countdown, we’ll look back at a game Auburn has played recently up in Birmingham.