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story.lead_photo.caption Auburn’s Horace Spencer reacts after a three-pointer during the Tigers’ victory over Alabama on Wednesday night.


AUBURN, Ala. -- The Auburn Tigers found a way to win without two key players.

That's nothing new.

Jared Harper scored 21 points, freshman Chuma Okeke had career-highs of 16 points and 10 rebounds and No. 12 Auburn beat rival Alabama 90-71 Wednesday night even without ailing star Mustapha Heron and injured Anfernee McLemore.

"I just knew I had to step up with two of our teammates down," Okeke said.

Down to seven scholarship players, the Tigers (24-4, 12-3 SEC) turned a five-point halftime lead into a blowout thanks largely to big performances from Okeke and Malik Dunbar off the bench.

Auburn responded with Heron out with a stomach ailment one game after McLemore was lost for the rest of the season to an ankle injury. It's a familiar challenge for a team that's played without Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy all season.

Collin Sexton scored 25 points to lead the Crimson Tide (17-11, 8-7) after missing the first meeting with an abdominal problem.

"The second half, I felt like we weren't hustling," Sexton said. "They were just driving and when we did help then we wouldn't rotate one more time. That's why they got open threes."

Bryce Brown scored 18 points for the Tigers despite shooting just 3 for 14 on three-pointers. Harper also had 6 assists after a 9-turnover, 1-assist game in a loss to South Carolina.

"He controlled the game tonight," Auburn Coach Bruce Pearl said.

Okeke, who figures to be a key figure on replacing McLemore, scored 13 points in a seven-minute span of the second half.

"When Chuma's playing like that, we're very hard to beat," Harper said.

Dunbar also turned in his top scoring performance with 14 points. Desean Murray had nine points and eight boards.

Auburn took command with a 17-2 run after having its lead cut to one early in the second half.

"I told them, 'Look, if Mustapha Heron doesn't play tonight, they're still a really good basketball team,' " Alabama Coach Avery Johnson said. "They came out and played with a lot of energy and emotion.

"Teams are always looking for a rallying point and playing with desperation. They played with more desperation than we did."

Sexton made 8 of 12 shots for the Tide, but other top scorers struggled.

John Petty, who had eight 3-pointers and 27 points in the Tide's January victory, missed his first eight attempts and finished with three points.

Donta Hall came in hot but had just seven points and five rebounds. Braxton Key had 11 points and Avery Johnson Jr. scored 10 points, both off the bench.

In other Top 25/SEC games Wednesday, Ty Jerome scored 18 points and No. 1 Virginia (25-2, 14-1) held off depleted Georgia Tech (11-17, 4-11) 65-54, clinching the regular season title and top seed next month in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament. ... Mikal Bridges scored 27 points and Phil Booth added 14 in his return to the lineup to lead No. 3 Villanova (25-3, 12-3 Big East) to a 93-62 victory over DePaul (10-17, 3-12). ... Naji Marshall scored a career-high 21 points and No. 4 Xavier (25-4, 13-3 Big East) beat Georgetown (15-11, 5-10) 89-77. ... Grayson Allen scored 28 points and No. 5 Duke (23-5, 11-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) routed Louisville (18-10, 8-7) 82-56. ... Kendall Smith scored 21 points to help Oklahoma State (16-12, 6-9 Big 12) stun No. 6 Texas Tech (22-6, 10-5) 79-71. ... Theo Pinson scored a career-high 23 points, Joel Berry II added 18, including the tiebreaking layup with 1:36 left, and No. 10 North Carolina (22-7, 11-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) held off Syracuse (18-10, 7-8) 78-74. ... Shaquille Morris had 25 points and nine rebounds to help No. 13 Wichita State (22-5, 12-3 American Athletic Conference) outlast Tulane (13-14, 4-11) 93-86. ... Justin Robinson and Kerry Blackshear Jr. scored 14 points each to lift Virginia Tech (20-8, 9-6 ACC) to a 65-58 upset of No. 15 Clemson (20-7, 9-6). ... Duncan Robinson scored 19 points and Moritz Wagner added 18 as No. 17 Michigan (23-7, 12-5 Big Ten) beat Penn State (19-11, 9-8). ... Kendall Stephens scored a career-high 30 points and No. 20 Nevada (24-5, 13-2 Mountain West) hit 14 three-pointers in an 80-67 victory over San Jose State (3-23, 0-15). ... Wesley Myers scored 15 points and made five of South Carolina's 13 three-pointers as the Gamecocks (15-13, 6-9 SEC) beat Georgia (5-12, 6-9) 66-57. ... Grant Williams bounced back from one of his worst performances of the season to score 23 points and No. 19 Tennessee (20-7, 10-5 SEC) beat Florida (17-11, 8-7) 62-57 to hand the Gators their third consecutive loss.




Stephen F. Austin (23-5, 12-3 Southland Conference) dominated the University of Central Arkansas (13-15, 7-8) in all phases in a 35-point blowout at Johnson Coliseum in Nacogdoches, Texas.

The Lumberjacks, who led by as many as 42 points late, shot 56.9 percent for the game and 45.8 percent from three-point range as the Bears could only muster 32.3 percent from the field.

Stephen F. Austin also led in points off turnovers (26-12), fast-break points (22-2) and points in the paint (46-18).

Jordan Howard led the Bears with 19 points, while teammate Mathieu Kamba finished with 13.

The Lumberjacks had five players with 10 or more points, led by Shannon Bogues' 18 and Leon Gilmore's 17.




Kamry Orr's 24 points weren't enough to lead the University of Central Arkansas (18-8, 11-4 Southland Conference) past Stephen F. Austin (22-4, 14-1) at the Farris Center in Conway.

Orr was 7 of 13 from the field, including 2 of 4 on three-pointers, and made 8 of 11 free throws. No other Sugar Bear scored over eight points.

The Sugar Bears outshot the Ladyjacks 36.2 percent to 32.1 percent but made 63.2 percent of their free throws (12 of 19) while Stephen F. Austin made 19 of 26 (73.1 percent).

UCA led 49-48 with 1:18 left in the fourth quarter until Stephen F. Austin closed the game on a 7-1 run.

Stevi Parker led the Ladyjacks with 18 points and nine rebounds.

Sports on 02/22/2018

Print Headline: Auburn delivers a blowout with shortage of key players

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