No. 7 Auburn survives scare, hangs on to beat Murray State
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AUBURN, Ala. (AP) Shuffling its starting lineup and finding its 3-point shot in the second half helped No. 7 Auburn to a bounce-back victory at home.
Four days after being upset by North Carolina State on the road, the Tigers (10-2) survived a late scare by the Racers (8-2). Auburn led 91-79 with 56 seconds remaining before Murray State cut the lead to three on a 3-pointer by Shaq Buchanan with 24 seconds to go, but free throws by Jared Harper on the other end sealed the victory.
"We had really solid looks in the second half," Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. "We did what we wanted to do offensively. Austin, on the inside, was really good."
The Racers had led 59-57 about six minutes into the second half, but a 19-3 run by Auburn over the next five minutes broke the game open, with Bryce Brown's 3-pointer capping the spurt to give the Tigers a 76-62 lead with 8:51 left.
Doughty and Wiley were two of five players to score in double figures for Auburn. Chuma Okeke had 17 points, Harper finished with 12 and Bryce Brown added 11.
Ja Morant led Murray State with 25 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
Murray State trailed by only three points at halftime and took the lead early in the second half before Auburn went ahead for good with 13:11 to play.
Auburn picked up its 3-point shooting in the second half, hitting 8 of 17 from behind the arc in the second half, including five 3s in the 19-3 run.
Wiley started for the first time this season as the Tigers adjusted their rotation after the loss to unranked North Carolina State on Wednesday. He scored 10 points and grabbed five rebounds in the first half. Auburn led 38-35 at the break.
"I thought it was a heck of a college basketball game," Murray State coach Matt McMahon said. "I hate we weren't able to come out on top, but congrats to Auburn."
Auburn: The Tigers are likely to slide in next week's AP Top 25 after their 78-71 defeat at N.C. State and nearly blowing a 12-point lead against a mid-major conference team. Auburn opens SEC play on Jan. 9 at Ole Miss.
Murray State: The Racers fell to 0-2 this season against SEC teams. Murray State lost to Alabama 78-72 on Nov. 26. It opens Ohio Valley Conference play on Jan. 3 against Morehead State.
Brown missed pregame walkthroughs while fighting off a fever, Pearl said, but he played and broke his slump from behind the arc. The shooting guard finished 0-for-6 from 3-point range against UAB and went 0-for-4 against N.C. State in Auburn's last two games. He hit 3 of 8 against Murray State.
Morant played in front of 15 NBA scouts from 11 NBA teams. He entered the game averaging 22.8 points and an NCAA Division I-best 9.6 assists.
"He's a great player," Auburn's Harper said. "He's a future lottery pick. He'll be a great future player in the NBA."
Auburn: The Tigers have a week off before hosting North Florida for their final nonconference game next Saturday.
Murray State: The Racers play Bethel at home next Saturday in their nonconference finale.
More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25
Updated December 22, 2018