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Tip-Off Countdown: #72 Auburn 81 Murray State 77

The first of 2 matchups with Murray State’s Ja Morant didn’t disappoint.

NCAA Basketball: Murray State at Auburn Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

December 19, 2017 - Murray, Kentucky

I may be in the minority here, but I LOVE these kinds of games. I love seeing the big schools travel to the smaller schools and playing in their own gyms. It’s a rare treat to see it done and while we may not see it as much on the Auburn schedule going forward, this was fantastic scheduling by Bruce Pearl.

The Tigers began a 2 for 1 series up in Murray, Kentucky as they met with then lesser known guard Ja Morant and the Racers. (The 3rd game of the series is scheduled for December 22nd, but of course that is TBD). I will say that Murray State’s arena is a solid mid-major arena that I was fortunate enough to visit back in January.

Over the past few years, Morant has been one of my favorite non-Auburn players to watch so it’s really cool looking back at these matchups against the Tigers.

The Racers were fired up to be hosting a SEC team for the first time in 24 years and it showed early, getting off to an early 12-2 start.

The spark for the Tigers came from Malik Dunbar, who knocked down 3 3-pointers to get Auburn right back into the game. Bryce Brown would get involved scoring Auburn’s next 9 points, with 2 3-pointers as Auburn took a 22-20 lead midway through the 1st half. Auburn would hold the lead the rest of the half and led 42-36 at halftime with Bryce Brown’s 12 points leading the way.

The 2nd half was an impressive one for Desean Murray who scored 14 of his team-high 18 points in the 2nd 20 minutes. Murray hit several shots in big spots, including a 3 after falling behind for a few moments with 8 minutes to go.

In the final 4 minutes, the closer, Jared Harper came to life. Harper was scoreless during the second half until there were 4 minutes to go. With 4:01 left and Murray State up 67-66, Harper hit a 3 to break his scoring drought. After the Racers tied it at 69 on the other end, Jared hit a 2nd 3 with 3:14 left and a 3rd 3-pointer with 1:54 to go to put Auburn up 75-71. One more bucket from Murray and then four free throws, 2 each from Harper and Mustapha Heron would seal the deal for Auburn.

Murray had 18 points and 9 rebounds, Harper had 17 points and 6 rebounds. Heron scored 16 points and had 8 rebounds and Bryce Brown added 15 points.

As for Ja Morant, he was held to 2-10 shooting and scored just 9 points for Murray State. They got huge contributions from Morant’s supporting cast and was almost enough to pull the upset.

Auburn picked up their 8th straight win to move to 10-1 on the season.

Of all of the games in this countdown, this was one of the toughest highlight reels to find, but here is what I was able to find.

As I always say, here are the highlights!