AUBURN — So much for those slow starts by Auburn.
In Saturday night’s 95-70 win over LSU, the 19th-ranked Tigers treated a sold-out Auburn Arena to an initial four-minute segment in which the home team gave up the first basket and then went on a 24-4 run to easily dispatch the visitors.
Auburn hit 11 from 3-point range in the first 20-minute period that saw the Tigers post their ninth 50-point scoring effort in a half — but only the second in the first half.
The 24-6 run from the opening tip was the ninth time No. 19 Auburn has had a double-digit lead on an opponent this season before the eight-minute media timeout.
Auburn, which took a full game lead over Florida in the Southeastern Conference standings nearly halfway into the 18-game league slate, is now 10-2 against teams in the Top 100 of the latest Ratings Percentage Index. The Tigers increased their argument to be a top-two seed in the upcoming NCAA seedings
The NCAA tournament selection committee will reveal its top four seeds in each of the four regions Feb. 11, and Auburn’s current run has all but guaranteed it will be on that list of 16 teams.
Against LSU, Mustapha Heron reached his season-long scoring average of 15 points a game before the first media timeout. The 6-foot-5 guard, who finished with a game-high 21 points, was practically the living embodiment of Auburn’s offense for the first five minutes of the contest.
"What a treat. How do you not sit back and look at Mustapha Heron and go, 'Wow,'" Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said.
Heron hit six of his first eight shots. The player who arrived Saturday shooting just 28.4 percent from beyond the 3-point arc nailed four treys in Auburn’s 12th straight home win, which is a program record for Auburn Arena.
"Just trying not to come out flat,” Heron said.
Before leading at Missouri on Wednesday night, Auburn had been down at halftime in each of its last four league games but seemingly cured that problem with two impressive wins this week.
Auburn (19-2, 7-1 SEC) hit the double-digit mark on 3-point conversions with 5:42 left in the first half. After his team gave up a barely contested 3-point shot by Bryce Brown and a transition dunk by Chuma Okeke, LSU head coach Will Wade walked to the foul line with his hands in the air massively perturbed at LSU’s lack of effort on the defensive end.
There was a point in the game where Auburn had missed only seven total shots but three of those misses were gobbled up by 6-foot-3 power forward Desean Murray. The transfer from Presbyterian, who has had double-figure scoring efforts in six of his last seven games, finished with 18 points and eight rebounds with six of those coming on the offensive end.
Murray was one of five Auburn players Saturday that finished in double figures including Heron, Okeke, Brown and Jared Harper. The defensive effort of Harper and Davion Mitchell on LSU’s leading scorer Tremont Waters never let the Bengal Tigers (12-8, 3-5 SEC) make any run. Waters finished with just four points on 1-of-7 shooting, and the freshman had six turnovers.
"What do you want to talk about? We got whipped in just about every way you can get whipped," Wade said. "I think at one point we had 10 total rebounds and they had 10 offensive rebounds. That's an effort issue."
Auburn likely will rise in the polls Monday morning after wins this week at Missouri and against LSU before it ends the month of January by traveling to Ole Miss on Tuesday for a 8 p.m. tipoff at the Pavilion in Oxford, Miss.