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Behind senior TJ Dunans and freshman Mustapha Heron, Auburn has the look of an SEC contender
- Updated: December 22, 2016
Football season might be over on the Plains (you know, except for the Sugar Bowl), but Auburn fans will still have a lot to yell “War Eagle” about this winter.
The basketball Tigers are 9-2 after dispatching Oklahoma, 74-70, in the “Birthday of Basketball” Classic at Mohegan Sun Arena on Wednesday night. The four-point margin wasn’t indicative of how Auburn controlled the game, leading the entire way and by as many as 17 points.
Bruce Pearl has it rolling again, and the rest of the SEC should stop and take notice. Or at least be prepared.
6-5 senior guard T.J. Dunans was terrific on Wednesday night, slashing his way to 21 points, 5 assists, 4 boards and 1 block. He’s got a knack for driving the paint and making the right play, and can finish well over bigs and at the rim. His thunderous, game-sealing jam with just over a minute left proved that.
Dunans started off the year slow as he worked his way back from knee issues last season, but has found his rythm in the last two games. He scored 13 points and hit a buzzer-beating three to give the Tigers a 76-74 win over Mercer last time out. His 21 on Wednesday was his highest scoring total on the season, but we expect that to become the norm. Oklahoma had no answer for the lanky kid from Atlanta, and he showed that he could be a handful to deal with the rest of the season.
Outside of Dunans, the most impressive player on the court for Auburn was freshman guard Mustapha Heron. The Waterbury, Conn. native put up 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Tigers, and it’s clear that he’s got All-SEC and even All-American potential.
Heron is already leading the team in rebounding (6.2 per) and ranks a close second on the team in scoring (16.1) ppg, despite averaging five fewer minutes per game than current stat leader Danjel Purifoy.
He’s already got the build of a big-time college player, and with his sweet shooting stroke and Dunans-like shiftiness, there’s no doubt he’s going to be good for a long time coming.
If you look up his coaching record, you can see that Bruce Pearl is pretty much allergic to losing. In fact, his first two years at Auburn were his only losing seasons in 22 years as a head coach.
Judging by Heron and the rest of the talent he’s developed on this roster, he’s not going to be doing much more losing on the Plains, either.