Wiley Shines in Second-Half Fueled win Over Alabama
Freshman Austin Wiley dunking during Saturday's 84-64 win over Alabama (Photo: Auburn Athletics/Wade Rackley)
Auburn Basketball welcomed the Alabama Crimson Tide to Auburn Arena Saturday for the first meeting between the two programs of the 2016-17 season. Despite a sloppy first half, the Tigers were able to pull away late in the second half, by defeating the Tide, 84-64. Auburn found themselves down early, 10-5 at the first timeout of the first half. At that point, Alabama had taken advantage of the glass, bringing down seven to Auburn’s four. That was the ultimate factor early in the half, as Alabama was only shooting 35% at the 11:49 timeout. “They jumped on us really hard, early. You could see how big and physical Alabama is,” said Coach Bruce Pearl following the game about Alabama’s rebounding. Auburn ultimately caught to Alabama in the rebounding department, as each team brought in 34 a piece. The second half is where the team finally found their footing. Freshman Mustapha Heron struggled in the scoring department in the first half, only contributing one point. It was a three-pointer with 8:57 remaining in the game that started the ignition. After that, Heron went on to score 11 points to bring his total to 15. “I knew it was going in as soon as it left my hands,” Heron said of his performance in the final eight minutes of the contest. “I knew that I was going to be able to get it started from there.” Heron has been one of the more consistent players on the team this far into the season, but it was the coming out party of another freshman that aided Auburn in the long run. Austin Wiley, a center that has only been with the team for a little over a month, had the game of his career up to this point. He ended the evening with a team-high 19 points, nine rebounds, and shot 11-18 from the charity stripe. This was the game that he, and many Auburn fans, were wanting to see from him. But his performance in this game meant way more considering the opponent was Alabama. “My mindset was, I really just wanted to beat them because I grew up in the rivalry. Just wanted to continue the legacy and just beat Alabama.” At multiple points in the game, the crowd fed off of his energy, to the point that they began chanting his name. How did he react to the gesture? “I feed off the energy, I hear that they are loud, but I don’t really hear what they are saying.” After heading into the locker room tied at 30, Auburn outshot Alabama 51.9% to 44.4%. Auburn gave up their lead once in the second half. It was Heron’s three-pointer within 9 minutes to go that Auburn began to pull away. Auburn had three players reach double-digits: Wiley (19), Ronnie Johnson (17), and Heron (15). In his return, Danjel Purifoy scored five. Auburn is now 13-6 overall, 3-4 in SEC play. Auburn has a tough challenge coming up in South Carolina. Tipoff for the game in Columbia is set for 5:30 on Tuesday evening.