Strong second half sinks Missouri
Bruce Pearl knows everyone hasn't hopped on the bandwagon yet. He's not entirely sure why, but he knows it. After a 71-93 victory of the Missouri Tigers, Auburn's 18th of the year and sixth in seven conference games, Pearl had just one question:
"What do we have to do to prove that we're for real?"
Auburn entered their game in Columbia as a two point underdog, a sign of the Tigers' resiliency at home. While Missouri has had their issues away from Mizzou Arena, they've been a tough out at home. In fact their only loss of the season came on a last second tip-in to the Florida Gators. For Auburn to escape with a victory, Pearl knew they'd have to play their best road game of the season.
Both teams spent the first half unable to pull away, a trend that continued into a second period where, with 13 minutes left, Missouri trailed by just one. But fast forward to six minutes later, and Auburn had blown the game wide open, leading by 20. That sudden surge was provided by Jared Harper, who added another fine effort to his fantastic season.
Harper's second half was the stuff dreams are made of, scoring 18 points with four assists and three steals. The sophomore point guard's improved play is one of the many reasons Auburn's fortune has improved so dramatically in comparison to last season. But Harper was far from the only player scoring in double digits. Auburn had five players reach that mark in Columbia.
Desean Murray continued his breakout season with 16 points and Chuma Okeke came off the bench to score 10 in relief. Mustapha Heron put together one of his better stat lines of the year, scoring 14 points and pulling down 11 rebounds.
But one of the best stories of night came from Auburn's only starter to not log double digit points. Anfernee McLemore, who entered the game at the top of the SEC stat sheet with 55 blocks, added six more against Missouri and helped create many of the 21 turnovers Auburn forced versus the Tigers. McLemore's fearlessness in the paint has been crucial time and time again for Auburn and he's played his way into a starting role as Bruce Pearl's most valued defender.
Auburn's victory combined with Florida's 81-78 loss at home to South Carolina returns Auburn to the top of the standings in the SEC as the conference's lone one-loss team.
Auburn now returns to the friendly confines of Auburn Arena to prepare for Saturday's game versus the LSU Tigers.