Daily Dish: Auburn earns impressive sweep in Connecticut; USC survives Wyoming to stay unbeaten

He may not be the biggest guy on the court, but freshman Jared Harper has been (metaphorically) huge for Auburn. (Photo courtesy: Auburn Athletics)

Auburn earned an impressive sweep of name opponents in the Nutmeg State this week, knocking off Oklahoma at the Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville on Wednesday before taking out UConn in Hartford on Friday.

The Sooners (6-5) and Huskies (5-6) are both suffering through uncharacteristically down years, but it’s still impressive for this young Auburn squad to take care of business against those two programs over 1,000 miles from home.

Much of the hype surrounding the Tigers in Connecticut centered around five-star recruit Mustapha Heron, who was returning to his home state for the first time since starring at Sacred Heart High School in Waterbury. But it was another freshman, 5-10 point guard Jared Harper, who proved to be the team’s MVP on the trip. Harper scored 21 points in the 74-70 win over Oklahoma and then came back with 22, 5 assists and 4 steals in the 70-67 overtime triumph over UConn.

The Tigers are now 10-2, and will enter SEC play with a resume worthy of NCAA Tournament inclusion. They should challenge Arkansas for the West division title.

They’re doing all of this with three freshmen—Heron (15.9 ppg), 6-7 forward Danjel Purifoy (14.7) and Harper (12.8) as their leading scorers, and senior T.J. Dunans (8.2 ppg) might be their go-to-guy. Dunans was fantastic against Oklahoma, scoring 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting. He also hit a falling away, game-winning three to beat Mercer last week.

USC survived a heck of a test against Wyoming at the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic on Friday night, edging the Cowboys 94-92 in overtime to stay unbeaten on the season. Not many people have noticed, but Andy Enfield’s Trojans are quietly 13-0, and will head into Pac-12 play as a Top-25 team.

Some fans may have forgotten about Enfield, who seemed to disappear after leading Florida Gulf Coast’s stunning run to the Sweet 16 in 2013. It’s taken a little time (the Trojans were 11-21 in 2014 and 12-20 in ’15), but Enfield has brought “Dunk City” to Los Angeles.

Five players are averaging in double figures in scoring on this year’s squad, led by 6-5 junior guard Elijah Stewart (15.5 ppg). This is one of the most efficient offensive teams in the country, and their up-tempo style will be hard to guard no matter the competition.

Sure, USC has loaded up on an entire tray of cupcakes so far this season (Montana, Omaha, New Orleans, UC-Santa Barbara, San Diego, Pepperdine, Troy, Cornell, Missouri State), but it does own a quality win over Texas A&M, and the overtime ‘W’ over Mountain West contender Wyoming will look legit come March.

The schedule gets a lot tougher going forward, but this group has more than enough talent to take care of business. Look for the Trojans to be wearing their home whites in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

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