AUBURN, Ala. — Mustapha Heron got an earful — and some ham — from his coach this week.
Heron responded to his coach’s scolding with a second straight big game Friday night, scoring a career-high 31 points and collecting 10 rebounds to lead Auburn to a 119-85 victory over Winthrop.
Heron made 11 of 17 shots and all seven free-throw attempts before fouling out. His previous career high was 24 points, and he scored 22 over the weekend against Hofstra after a slow start to the season.
“It’s all on Mustapha,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. “I yelled at him more this week, like a lot more. And I was even mean to him.
“He did come over to the house for Thanksgiving and he’s not a turkey eater. It’s challenging if you’re not a turkey eater on Thanksgiving, but he went with some ham.”
Bryce Brown hit six second-half 3-pointers and scored 21 points for the Tigers (4-1), who topped 100 points for the second time this season.
Brown scored just three points in the first half but made all six of his 3s after that. When he’s that hot, Heron said, “You can’t stop it.”
“He spaces the floor so well, and it’s just impossible to stop,” Heron said. “And it opens up the floor for everyone else.”
Malik Dunbar scored 13 points for Auburn. Desean Murray, who had played against Winthrop four times before transferring from Presbyterian, scored 12 points and Chuma Okeke had 11.
Jermaine Ukaegbu led Winthrop (2-3) with 12 points. Austin Awad and Nych Smith scored 11 apiece, and Kyle Zunic and Bjorn Broman each added 10.
Winthrop briefly took the lead in the first half but Auburn responded with 12 consecutive points in just 72 seconds. That triggered a 24-3 run that resulted in a 58-36 halftime lead.
Both teams were without top players. Auburn has held out center Austin Wiley and forward Danjel Purifoy all season during an internal review of the program.
Winthrop announced before the game that leading scorer and rebounder Xavier Cooks was suspended for behavior at Friday’s practice that was “unbecoming of a Winthrop basketball player,” coach Pat Kelsey said before the game.
Winthrop: Cooled off after topping 100 points in back-to-back wins. Fell to 1-5 against the Tigers, and was outrebounded 42-28.
Auburn: Still holding its own against questionable competition. Made 42 of 68 shots (61.8 percent), topping 60 percent for the first time since February 2016 against Arkansas. Hit 14 of 25 3s (56 percent).
COOKS OUT: The senior forward was averaging 15.3 points and 9.0 rebounds. He’s Winthrop’s tallest starter at 6-foot-8. “We are working with him to channel his emotions constructively,” Kelsey said in a pre-game statement.
“That’s not the same Winthrop team that was in the NCAA Tournament a year ago and was a 12-seed playing Butler,” Pearl said.
BARKLEY HONORED: Former Auburn and NBA star Charles Barkley was honored at the game for Charles Barkley Appreciation Night. Auburn will unveil a statue of him in front of Auburn Arena before Saturday’s football game with Alabama.
Winthrop returns home for a Sunday night game with South Carolina State.
Auburn visits Dayton, led by former Alabama coach Anthony Grant, Wednesday night before starting a three-game home stand.