Basketball Suffers Bad Defeat to Barry University
Auburn's athletically gifted backup Mustapha Heron will be getting more playing time with two prominent players being held out of the lineup.
With the numerous happenings around Auburn athletics, the exhibition game against Barry University, a 105–95 loss, was a mere footnote. Much of that can be attributed to the fact that the exhibition wasn’t covered by any media, and the game itself required paying patrons, who were asked to cough up $10 to watch Auburn’s squad.
The loss was most likely overshadowed by the news that Auburn Athletic Director Jay Jacobs would be stepping down within the next few months. Additionally, Auburn’s football team earned a solid win in College Station against a decent SEC West opponent and made an appearance in the College Football Playoff Top Ten rankings.
While the loss to Barry garnered a lot of ire from Auburn fans and laughs from fans of other teams, it was quickly dismissed.
Should Auburn basketball fans be worried?
Obviously, a loss wasn’t expected against a lesser team such as Barry, especially since Auburn is entering the season with nothing less than NCAA Tournament aspirations. Auburn was set to return some formidable players from last year’s squad, one that made some progress despite not achieving the success of the previous team’s run in the SEC tournament. Add a solid recruiting class that included Chuma Okeke, and the Tigers seemed that they might be the team fans have dreamed about for 18 years since Chris Porter’s departure.
Instead, expectations took a massive hit, and not only because of the loss to Barry. Auburn’s expectations actually fell flat before the basketball team took the court for the first time when the athletics department announced that Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy would be held out indefinitely because of suspected connection with the federal complaint against assistant coach Chuck Person.
Wiley is Auburn’s best recruit in the last thirty years, and Purifoy became Auburn’s best overall player in the 2016-2017 season. Wiley exploded on the scene for Auburn in mid-December last season and helped transition Auburn from a live-or-die-by-the-three team to a better rounded team. The team struggled with that transition, losing the vast majority of its games down the stretch. Purifoy, in particular, never looked engaged late in the year. While it would be pure speculation on what, if anything, was going on behind the scene, his body language was bad and his play on the court deteriorated.
Other players picked up the slack then, and they will be forced to do so again as Purifoy and Wiley are liabilities at best and done playing at Auburn at worst.
Will Coach Bruce Pearl be able to work magic? After all he did so with the 2015–2016 squad that made a deep run in the SEC Tournament with a hodge-podge team that didn’t have a legitimate center or point guard.
Make no mistake, Auburn now has talent, even without Wiley and Purifoy, but pressure is building on Pearl, regardless of what the FBI may or may not find.
Fans that don’t know just how good Mustapha Heron is will get to know him really quick, and they will also get to see just how athletically gifted backup center Anfernee McLemore is. McLemore led Auburn with seven rebounds and two blocks to go with his 17 points. Heron led the scoring with 21, and point guard Jared Harper kicked in 20. Freshman phenom Chuma Okeke added nine points and seven boards.
However, Auburn tried to win with the long ball again. While that works on many occasions, Auburn ran into a team that could do it even better. Auburn was a dreadful 3–13 on three-point attempts while Barry knocked down 16 of its whopping 41 attempts.
Auburn takes to the court on Friday when Norfolk State comes calling. Tip is at 7:00 PM Central. There is no current information on media coverage, and I will provide updates. Make sure to follow me on Twitter @Best5Zach as I live tweet during most basketball games.