CHARLESTON, S.C. — Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said his team was ready to focus on basketball after a troubling offseason of suspensions and inquiries. The Tigers showed that at the Charleston Classic on Thursday.
Bryce Brown scored 15 points while DeSean Murray added 14 points and 12 rebounds as Auburn ran away from Indiana State in an 83-64 victory and, for a change, got to celebrate its play instead of face questions about the state of the program.
“I think kids were dying to play some basketball,” Pearl said.
That was evident early as Auburn (2-0) used runs of 10-0 and 21-6 in the opening half to put away the Sycamores (1-1), who came in off a shocker as they routed Indiana at Assembly Hall 90-69 last Friday night. Auburn did not let them get going in this one as Murray and Brown took control.
Chuma Okeke and Mustapha Heron each had 11 points for Auburn.
It was a welcome result for Auburn, which has spent more time this offseason gaining attention for its role in the federal college corruption scandal. Former Tigers assistant coach Chuck Person was indicted by a federal grand jury and fired by Auburn. The school has also indefinitely suspended players Danjel Purifoy and Austin Wiley. This week, two staffers in special assistant Jordan VerHulst and video coordinator Frankie Sullivan were placed on indefinite leave due to what the school said was its “ongoing investigation into the men’s basketball program.”
Murray said it’s been difficult at times to keep outside issues on the outside. “We’re not letting the outside get to us,” Murray said. “We’re going to stick together as a family.”
Jordan Barnes, who had 24 points in the win over Indiana, had 19 points off four 3-pointers to lead Indiana State.
Sycamores coach Greg Lansing was disappointed by his team’s lack of effort. He thought they prepared well leading into the tournament and did not show evidence that their big win over Indiana might linger into this one. “But kids can fool you,” he said.
Auburn will play Temple on Friday for a spot in Sunday’s championship game. Indiana State will play the Old Dominion.
Auburn: The Tigers’ speed overwhelmed Indiana State early. Auburn’s guards continually drove the lane against the slower, smaller Sycamores. The up-tempo style could help the Tigers compete in what’s expected to be a deep, strong Southeastern Conference this year.
Indiana State: Too much Indiana celebrating? Who knows, but the Sycamores were clearly not ready for what Auburn had going early on. Even if the score didn’t reflect it, Indiana State shot, rebounded and played better defense in the second half after falling behind big in the first.
PEARLS OF WISDOM
Pearl said there’s a chance — he didn’t know when — that Purifoy and Wiley could return from suspension. He said the two players are staying in shape and preparing for when eligibility is restores. Pearl said the process of reviewing the program, as Auburn is doing, is a necessary one.
Auburn picked up three technical fouls for taunting Indiana State. Murray got one in the opening half while Heron and Malik Dunbar were also called for their actions. Barnes was whistled for a tech for Indiana State.
Indiana State, which shot nearly 60 percent in taking down Indiana, went cold against Auburn. The Sycamores hit just 7 of 26 shots (26.9 percent) in the first 20 minutes. Take away Barnes’ four first-half buckets and that showing drops to 3 of 19 for the rest of Indiana State. Brenton Scott, who scored 24 points against the Hoosiers, missed all three.
Auburn will play Temple on Friday.
Indiana State will play Old Dominion on Friday.