Ole Miss powers past Auburn in thrilling come-from-behind victory
OXFORD, Miss. – Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden once said, “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”
The Ole Miss men’s basketball team was living proof of this mantra Saturday night, as the Rebels overcame a 23-point deficit to defeat the Auburn Tigers, 90-84. In the first half, there appeared to be much Ole Miss could not do. Fortunately, head coach Andy Kennedy’s players did not let that interfere with what they could do.
Ole Miss, who made only nine field goals in the first half, manhandled the Tigers in the second half to defeat Auburn for the Rebels’ 10th straight victory in the series and the season sweep.
Ole Miss (15-10, 6-6 Southeastern Conference) has won 13 of the last 15 meetings against the Tigers. The Rebels are 41-23 all-time versus the Tigers in Oxford and have won eight straight at home against their SEC West foe.
Ole Miss has not lost to Auburn since 2008, and Andy Kennedy is 15-5 in his career against the Tigers.
The 23-point comeback is tied for the largest in Ole Miss school history, with the other big rally coming on Feb. 6, 2010 against Alabama.
Terence Davis led the way on the offensive end for the Rebels with 26 points on 11 of 13 shooting. Cullen Neal added 20 points on 5 of 12 shooting.
Saturday night’s game was one filled with huge runs–runs that led to a large lead for Auburn (16-9, 5-7) as well as a magical comeback for Ole Miss. The Tigers outscored the Rebels 35-15 after trailing 8-0 in the opening minutes of the first half. Then in the second half, Ole Miss outscored Auburn 63-37 to win the game.
The Rebels’ last lead occurred at 14-13 in the first half before they fell behind for the remainder of the first half and part of the second half. In fact, Ole Miss wouldn’t take the lead again until Neal’s 3-pointer put the Rebels up 70-69 with 5:06 left to play in the game. Neal’s 3-pointer capped a 22-9 run from the 12:18 mark to the final five minutes of the game.
Davis took control, making crucial baskets during the run by converting on a dunk, four layups, and one free throw. He went scoreless in the first half but came alive–and brought the Ole Miss crowd with him–in the second half after the media timeout at the 12-minute mark.
Neal described the mood at the half.
“We walked into the locker room very disappointed in ourselves. Coaches, obviously, got on us but we thought we had to fight, fight, fight, and just keep fighting and keep grinding. Luckily enough, we were able to grind it away after the media timeout.”
Despite losing the lead, Auburn would not go away.
Ronnie Johnson drained a 3 to bring the Tigers to within 80-76. Mustapha Heron then made a 3 to bring Auburn within 84-82 with 28 seconds left in the game. Anfernee McLemore’s dunk had the Tigers down by two, 86-84, with 13 seconds.
But Deandre Burnett’s four foul shots sealed the victory for the home team.
Burnett finished with 18 points, making all 10 of his free throw attempts. Sebastian Saiz added 10 points and eight rebounds. Head coach Andy Kennedy described his team’s second-half comeback.
“Thankfully, we were able to cut the margin quickly. It wasn’t as if it was a slow bleed. We had that thing down to ten under the 12-minute media (time out). Guys had some faith that we get this thing down and thankfully we did.”
Rebels overcome slow first-half start
After Saiz’s scored four straight points, the Rebels could only muster one field goal for the remainder of the first half, and Auburn outscored Ole Miss 47-19 to go into halftime up by 20 points. The Tigers knocked down shots from the 3-point line (8 of 13) and received the benefit of most of the calls to get to the free throw line in the first half. In the first half, Auburn made 6 of 8 from the line and owned a 23-15 advantage in rebounds.
The Rebels got into foul trouble early with Marcanvis Hymon picking up three and Davis and Justas Furmanavicius both picking up two. That caused Kennedy to go with players who haven’t played as much this season and to play some of his Rebels at different positions.
Neal played at point guard, while Burnett stayed at shooting guard. Donte Fitzpatrick-Dorsey also saw some playing time in the game. But no matter how Kennedy maneuvered his lineup, he watched as the Tigers were just better in the first half. The Tigers made 18 of 32 shots in the first half, while Auburn’s bench outscored Ole Miss 22-9, and held an 18-10 advantage off points in the pain at intermission.
But all of that changed in the second half as the tide turned in favor of the home team.
Auburn made 15 of 37 shots, including 5 of 16 from 3. Johnson finished with a team-high 18 for the Tigers, while Heron notched 16 and Danjel Purifoy added 12.
After the game, Tigers’ coach Bruce Pearl gave credit to the Rebels:
“This is the most disappointing loss I have had at Auburn in my two and a half years here. Ole Miss played great in the second half and deserved to win the game.”
Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl
Ole Miss did exactly what it needed to do in the second half to win the game. The Rebels made 21 of 23 foul shots, compared to 6 of 8 in the second half against Tennessee. Ole Miss finished with only 11 turnovers, down seven from the 18 it had in the loss against the Volunteers. Lastly, Burnett, who scored only eight against Tennessee, had a very solid game with his 18 points. The last time the Rebels played Auburn, Burnett scored 18 points.
- The Rebels are 5-7 when trailing at the half.
- With the win, Ole Miss improves to 10-5 at home.
- The Rebels are 10-3 when wearing white jerseys.
- Ole Miss is a perfect 4-0 when scoring 90 points.
- The Tigers surpassed their season scoring average of 79.8 points with 84.
- Auburn lost the rebounding battle, 39-38.
- The Tigers came in ranked dead last in the SEC in rebounding margin (-3.4).
- Auburn is next to last in the league, giving up close to 80 points a game.
- Jared Harper came in averaging 12.7 points a game, but was held to four on 2 of 9 shooting.
Ole Miss hosts LSU on Tuesday (8:00 p.m., SECN).
Auburn hosts No. 17 Florida on Tuesday (6:00 p.m., SECN).
(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)
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.