HONOLULU (WIAT) –The Auburn basketball team gets to spend the holiday season in Hawaii, and the paradise continued on Tuesday afternoon. The Tigers beat New Mexico 83-78 in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic first round at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Kareem Canty scored 27 points, T.J. Dunans had a career-high tying 20 and Cinmeon Bowers came off the bench for his sixth double-double in seven games with 12 points and 12 rebounds to lead Auburn.
“We talked about effort and energy the whole time,” said Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl. “When we play with fire, we have a chance to do anything. Cinmeon Bowers coming off the bench gave us a real spark plug. Dunans showing his athleticism. We outscored them in points off turnovers significantly. That is Auburn basketball right there. We just have to build on it.”
In the first half Auburn used an 18-4 run on three straight 3s to give the Tigers their largest lead at 31-23 with 5:56 left.
New Mexico opened the second half with a 17-6 run in less than four minutes to regain the lead 53-47. Auburn answered with eight straight points, including five straight by Canty, to go back ahead 59-55 with 13:10 to play.
“New Mexico came out the second half and scored almost every time they had it,” said Pearl. “We know just be in the game late, and Canty can get a look and win the game.”
The Lobos had a 10-0 run to counter for a 65-59 lead halfway through the second half. The Tigers answered back with a 12-5 run for a 72-71 lead on a Bowers dunk and Canty layin with 4:16 left.
“Defense was big stopping the main two guys, they had 30 apiece or something,” said Dunans. “We had to step it out and stop the 3s. We had to keep a fresh body on him. Everybody can play defense. We just have to commit to it.
“I just came out and tried to be more aggressive and help Kareem out. We talked about it so much so we had no choice but to come out with energy. That’s what we did and we came out with a win.”
Auburn improved to 6-3 while New Mexico fell to 7-4.
Auburn plays Harvard at 3:30 pm Central on Wednesday in the Diamond Head Classic semifinals on ESPNU.