Ole Miss defeats Auburn, 88-85, for first SEC win of season
AUBURN. Ala. – With less than five minutes to go in the game Saturday night, Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy stood in front of the Ole Miss bench and watched as his Rebels blew a 12-point lead over Auburn.
But there was no cause for Kennedy to be alarmed as senior forward Rasheed Brooks drained a three from the top of the key with 39 seconds left in regulation to give the Rebels an 83-80 lead.
Brooks’ shot ultimately proved to be the dagger Ole Miss (10-5, 1-2 Southeastern Conference) needed to slide past the young, pesky Tigers 88-85 for the Rebels’ first win on the season in SEC play.
Redshirt junior Deandre Burnett led the Rebels with 18 points, most of them coming from the free throw line (10 of 12). Terence Davis added 16, while Sebastian Saiz had 14 points and 10 boards. Redshirt junior Cullen Neal finished with 13.
Auburn (10-5, 0-3 SEC) had a chance to tie the game and send it into overtime, but T.J. Lang’s 3-point attempt clanked off the top of the rim as the game ended.
Kennedy, who now sports a 14-5 career record against the Tigers, including nine straight wins, was pleased with the way Brooks and the team responded.
“Rasheed Brooks with a huge shot, I thought he had a big second half for us, stepped up like you want your seniors to do. It’s just good to win. It’s been 16 days since we won. We didn’t play well enough to beat a team the caliber of a Kentucky and Florida, and it’s easy to drop your head.”
Neal drained a three from the corner to give the Rebels their biggest lead of the game at 72-60 with 5:29 to go. He began the second half with confidence, giving his team a 53-51 lead off a 3-pointer, which took momentum away from the opposing bench.
For a little while, it seemed as if Ole Miss might run away from Auburn, but the Tigers had one more run left in them, with foul trouble from the Rebels also playing a part in Auburn’s rally.
Tigers make one last run
The Tigers got within 76-75 with 1:55 left after Jared Harper made two shots from the free throw line. Harper continued his scoring fest, going to the line two more times to tie the game at 80-all. Harper had the game-high 24 points but fouled out with 19 seconds to go.
Holding an 80-75 lead with 1:16 left in the game, the Rebels saw team leader Saiz foul out. But that didn’t intimidate Ole Miss as the team fought hard to pick up the win. After the game, Brooks, who finished with 10 points on 4 of 6 shooting, explained he had the utmost confidence in his shot, despite taking just three shot attempts in the first half.
“As soon as it left my hands, I knew it was good.”
Rebels relinquish first half lead before rallying in second
The Rebels had momentum – a 15-8 lead – in the early minutes of the first half, but their lead quickly went away once the Tigers got going offensively. Auburn went on a 14-0 run to stay out in front for the remainder of the first half. The Tigers run started with a jumper by Ronnie Johnson; then, Auburn received back-to-back 3-pointers from Bryce Brown and Danjel Purifoy.
The Tigers built their lead up to 27-19 after two foul shots by Mustapha Heron. Ole Miss got within four on two occasions late in the first half, but Auburn had an offensive play set up to keep the Rebels from regaining momentum.
Heron drained a three after a layup by Justas Furmanavicius to make it 32-28 with 1:54 to go in the half. Furmanavicius, who finished with 11 points and five rebounds, converted on a three from the corner to pare the Tigers’ lead down to 37-33. But a 15-foot jumper from Heron and a coast-to-coast layup by Johnson quickly pushed Auburn’s lead back up to eight (41-33) at halftime.
Heron finished with 20 points on 6 of 12 shooting. Johnson added 12 points.
“Disappointed with the outcome, pleased with our effort, and I thought we got better tonight,” Tigers’ head coach Bruce Pearl said afterwards.
“Our second half defense was not as good. I think a lot had to do with Ole Miss’ offense. They did a good job.”
Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl
- The Rebels have won 12 of the 14 meetings, including the last nine against Auburn.
- Saiz now has 19 career double-doubles. He has recorded a double-double in six straight games and has 10 this season, which leads the SEC.
- Bruce Pearl is 5-6 coaching against Andy Kennedy, including 0-4 while coaching the Tigers.
- Ole Miss assistant coach Tony Madlock was an assistant coach at Auburn for four seasons from 2010-11 to 2013-14.
- Heron has scored in double figures in his first 15 collegiate games, which is now a school record for the most by a freshman to begin a season since All-American Wesley Person did in his first 14 games in 1990-91.
- Purifoy fell awkwardly on his left leg late in the first half, and was diagnosed with a left ankle sprain and didn’t return to the game. He finished with six points on 2 of 5 shooting.
Ole Miss hosts Georgia on Wednesday (6:00 p.m., ESPNU).
Auburn travels to Missouri on Tuesday (6:00 p.m., SECN).
(Feature image credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports)
Courtney is from Memphis and received his Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts from the University of Memphis in May of 2014. He began his journalism career covering the Memphis Tigers Men’s basketball team, which landed him an intern position on 730 Yahoo Sports Radio and a position with Rivals.com. A freelance writer for the Associated Press, Courtney is also a member of The Rebel Walk team and reports regularly on Ole Miss football and basketball. Courtney, the father of a six-year old girl named Soniyah, prefers to cover NCAA basketball and football, but is happy to report on any other sport that comes his way.