The No. 8 Auburn Tigers clawed their way to a close victory in overtime, 75-71, against the UAB Blazers Saturday. The basketball match up drew in a large crowd in Birmingham for the Mike Slive Invitational, with almost 16,000 in attendance.
Leading scorer Jared Harper had a career high of 31 points against the Blazers. The Junior spent time at the line, making 15 of his 16 free throws. Harper got in on the defensive action as well with four defensive rebounds.
Austin Wiley and Chuma Okeke each played an aggressive defensive game, having 7 and 6 rebounds respectively. Wiley, who played only 16 minutes, made use of his time on the court and logged six points and three blocks.
It was a special night for Danjel Purifoy as he made his debut after having spent 21 months on the sidelines following FBI investigations. Purifoy received a welcoming roar from the crowd as he stepped onto the court and played for seven minutes, having one rebound and two points.
Head Coach Bruce Pearl reminded the press earlier this week that Purifoy will need some time to adjust to being back in the game and asked that fans “Don’t judge him these first few weeks”.
It was a tight game through and through, the score being tied seven times. The Tigers came out hot with an immediate three-pointer by Anfernee McLemore, followed by a layup from Okeke.
After constant back and forth action and aggression in the paint on both sides, Auburn took control at the end of the first half. Down 23-27, Harper raked in two free throws and a 3-pointer to send the Tigers into half time with a one-point lead.
Tensions were high on the court and the bench in the second half of the game. Both Pearl and Blazer Head Coach Robert Ehsan were called on technical fouls for an altercation that resulted in a shouting match following a goal tending call dispute.
Harper’s hot streak really caught on in the last bit of the game where he scored 23 of the last 30 points for Auburn. After making five free throws in just 1:28, UAB’s Jeremiah Bell made a three-pointer to tie the game and send it into overtime.
Harper showed out in the additional five minutes, scoring 10 of Auburn’s 12 points. With 12 seconds left, the Tigers were up by just two. Harper scored the last two free shots of the game, ending the match up 75-71.
Auburn will continue the journey on the road to take on NC State in Raleigh, NC on Dec. 19. The game will air at 6 p.m. CDT on ESPN2. The Tigers will return home on Saturday, Dec. 22 to play Murray State.