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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — In its first true road test with a young team, Auburn passed with flying colors.
Jared Harper scored 21 points and Danjel Purifoy added 16 to lead Auburn to a 74-70 victory over UAB on Saturday night.
The young Tigers (6-1) proved capable of handling a hostile environment in their first true road game of the season, outlasting UAB (4-4) in front of the first sellout crowd at Bartow Arena since March 23, 2010.
"We did not play well in the first half and we were very fortunate to be in range," Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. "I think UAB probably went into the locker room at halftime going, 'Gosh, we're only up by three.' They outplayed us, they defended us, they rattled us. And our freshmen, with the exception of Jared Harper, looked like freshmen. Then in the second half, we played pretty well."
Auburn shot 50 percent from the field and outscored UAB 41-33 in the second half. The Tigers knocked down 11 3-pointers, the most since they made 13 in the season opener against North Florida, outscoring UAB 33-12 from beyond the arc.
Harper torched the Blazers for 15 points on five 3-pointers in the first half, but the true freshman was forced to take a seat early in the second half with three fouls.
"I told you he was going to be worth the price of admission, and he is," Pearl said. "As a little, quick guard with that kind of range, he kept us in range (in the first half).
Purifoy, the freshman forward who was tied with Mustapha Heron for the team lead in points per game entering the contest, stepped up in Harper's absence. Purifoy scored 11 of his 14 points in the second half, including three of his four 3-pointers.
Heron also asserted himself in the second half, scoring eight of his 11 points after the intermission.
"We had to (step up)," Purifoy said. "Like I said in the beginning, Jared, he led us on his back. He kind of fell short a little bit in the second half, but we had to pick him up and he started getting going again."
UAB earned a 40-31 advantage on the boards, but leading scorer Chris Cokley was forced out of the game with 8:24 remaining when he was called for a personal foul and subsequently drew a technical foul call for arguing with the referee. He finished with eight points and seven rebounds.
William Lee led UAB with 13 points, and Hakeem Baxter added 12 points on 5 of 8 shooting.
Auburn regained the lead, its first since the 13:29 mark in the first half, on a T.J. Dunans jumper with 13:34 remaining in the second half. The bucket came in the middle of a 14-2 run that gave Auburn the lead for good.
"I thought we got off to a very good start feeding off the crowd and ended the half on a high note," UAB coach Rob Ehsan said. "We got into a lull in the second half offensively. We couldn't get a rhythm going."
Auburn: UAB's advantage in the post was negated by the Tigers' athleticism and hot shooting stroke from outside. The win gave Auburn some momentum as it heads into an 8-day hiatus.
UAB: The Blazers' season has been up and down so far, as they've been unable to win consecutive games over their first eight contests. They hit the road twice in the next week looking for some consistency.
As Harper dealt with foul trouble early in the second half, Auburn's Ronnie Johnson entered at point guard and scored six consecutive points in the second half to stretch Auburn's lead to eight with 11:17 remaining.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
Harper and Purifoy combined to make seven of eight free throws in the final 2:24 of the game, icing the victory for Auburn as UAB vied for a late comeback.
Auburn: The Tigers get an extended break before traveling to New York on Monday, Dec. 12, to face Boston College in the Under Armour Reunion at Madison Square Garden.
UAB: The Blazers will look to get back on track Wednesday at Stephen F. Austin after their second loss in three games.
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