Kareem Canty was eager to put the past behind him.
Canty scored 27 points, T.J. Dunans 20 and Cinmeon Bowers 12 to help Auburn to a 83-78 win over New Mexico in a quarterfinal game of the Diamond Head Classic this morning.
The win helped the Tigers (6-3) rebound from a 24-point loss at Xavier just three days prior.
“I don’t remember that game,” said Canty, despite scoring 25 points against the Muskateers.
Canty made five of his team’s 10 3-pointers and scored 18 of his points after halftime. He also had seven assists.
“We tried to (forget about the Xavier loss), but the biggest thing was if we don’t play with effort and energy and together, we’re not very good and I just thought that Xavier pushed us all over the place and punched us in the mouth and we backed away and tonight, we were the aggressor,” Auburn second-year coach Bruce Pearl said.
The Tigers (6-3) shot nearly 54 percent (14 of 26) from the field in the second half and were 48 percent (28 of 59) for the game.
Dunans was 6 of 7 from the field and 7 of 10 on free throws. Bowers grabbed 12 rebounds.
“I thought the reason we won the game was because we had a lot of different guys contributing,” Pearl said. “I just thought our effort and energy was better on the defensive end. I thought Cinmeon Bowers coming off the bench was terrific and Dunans, you could see how active and aggressive he was, so this is a good win for our program.”
Elijah Brown scored 20 of his game-high 33 points in the first half for the Lobos (7-4). Cullen Neal had 21 points and Tim Williams added 10.
Auburn led at halftime, 41-36. There were seven ties and 13 lead changes in the game.
New Mexico held a 71-68 advantage following Sam Logwood’s layup with 5:48 to play. However, Bowers threw down a dunk about a minute later that ignited a 6-0 run and put Auburn ahead 74-71.
The Lobos inched to within 76-75 on a Obij Aget dunk off an assist from Neal with just under a minute remaining. Canty answered for Auburn by draining a step-back 3-pointer from 24 feet to make it a two-possession game with 28 seconds left.
“Coach called the play for me to come off the ball screen quick, but I saw that they were hedging good so I just went for the flat,” Canty said. “I don’t think anybody can stay in front of me so I tried to take them one-on-one and I saw the shot that I wanted and I was leaving it short all game. I didn’t leave it short then and thank God it went in.”
New Mexico got within three with just 12 seconds to go on a Brown 3-pointer, but Dunans made two free throws in the final seconds to close it out.
Dunans tied his career-high in points, while it was Bowers’ sixth double-double in his last seven games.
It was the first meeting between the schools.
Auburn: Canty came up one point shy of tying his career-high of 28 points, which he achieved in an 88-81 overtime over at Middle Tennessee State 10 days ago. He made eight 3-pointers, had seven assists and committed only one turnover in that game — the only player in the nation to achieve that mark this season.
New Mexico: The Lobos made their first nine shots from the field to start the second half. The 17-6 run — capped by an Aget dunk — gave them a 53-47 lead, but the Tigers answered with a 12-2 run of their own that put them back ahead, 59-55 with 13:20 left in the game.
DEFENDING THE 3 BALL
New Mexico entered the game ranked 27th in the nation by holding opponents to just 29 percent from 3-point range. However, Monday marked the third time this season that an opponent hit 10-or-more from behind the arc in a game. The Lobos allowed 12 treys by USC in an eight-point loss on Nov. 21 and 11 against Rice Saturday.
Auburn plays winner arvard in a semifinal game Wednesday.
New Mexico plays BYU in a consolation game Wednesday.
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