No. 8 Auburn outlasts UAB 75-71 in overtime
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Auburn and UAB aren’t annual rivals on the hardwood. The energy inside Legacy Arena as a fight-to-the-finish matchup ensued said otherwise.
Jared Harper scored 23 of Auburn’s last 30 points and finished with 31 to help the No. 8 Tigers outlast UAB 75-71 in overtime Saturday night in the Mike Slive Invitational.
In front of a crowd of 15,856, the budding in-state rivals raced to the overtime finish via the 3-point arc. After Harper scored 12 of the Tigers’ last 15, UAB’s Jeremiah Bell hit a pair of triples in the final 40 seconds, including a contested shot with 10 seconds left to send the contest to overtime. Bell finished with 13 points. Guard Jalen Perry led the Blazers (6-4) with 18 points on 6-for-13 shooting.
Chuma Okeke added 11 points for Auburn (9-1).
Harper took over in the overtime period, scoring or assisting on 25 of Auburn’s final 32 points. That streak began midway through the second half when Harper converted on a coast-to-coast lay-in. The basket tied the game after UAB led by as many as seven in the half.
“We’ve got Jared Harper and they don’t,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. “That happens a lot of the time against a lot of people. We have him and they don’t.”
UAB held the top-10 Tigers to 28 points in the opening period, which tied for their lowest scoring output of the season in a half (vs. Arizona, Nov. 21). The Blazers kept Auburn cool from beyond the arc, besides Harper, who scored all of eight of his first-half points in the final 1:03 of the half.
Trying to convey a message of control to his players, UAB coach Rob Ehsan said the team watched the movie “Seabiscuit” on Friday night to create a game plan.
“We talked about controlling the tempo throughout the game, control the tempo as much as we can,” Ehsan said. “We know how good they’ve been defensively.we didn’t make enough plays in the last four minutes.”
Saturday marked the 21st meeting in the series since UAB began playing basketball 40 years ago. Auburn leads 11-10. Pearl said postgame that the teams are in talks about possibly renewing a contract to play yearly.
Forward Danjel Purifoy played in his first game since March 8, 2017, after sitting out all last season due to eligibility concerns. After serving a nine-game suspension this year, he scored two points and had one rebound in seven minutes.
Midway through the second half, Pearl and UAB coach Rob Ehsan got into a shouting match near half-court and were both given technical fouls. Ehsan said, ”(Pearl) was getting frustrated with someone on our bench. That was kind of all I saw. But Coach Pearl and I have a good relationship.”
Auburn: At North Carolina State on Wednesday night.
UAB: Hosts Alcorn State on Tuesday night.