No. 4 Auburn brings plenty of momentum and a measure of swagger with it when it squares off against enigmatic Ole Miss on Saturday in Southeastern Conference play at Oxford, Miss.
The Tigers (15-1, 4-0 SEC) arrive after a thrilling 81-77 victory at No. 24 Alabama on Tuesday that stretched their winning streak to 12 games. Jabari Smith scored a career-high 25 points as the Tigers responded after the Crimson Tide rallied to tie the game with 4:04 remaining following a 14-0 run.
Wendell Green Jr. added 19 points for Auburn, with K.D. Johnson scoring 13 and Allen Flanigan 10, including the deciding four free throws in Auburn’s final, winning surge.
“I knew it was going to come down to the final minutes,” Flanigan said. “So (it was about) just us staying together, staying together as a group, just staying and being ourselves. In the end, just rebounding, getting stops and knocking down free throws.”
Auburn held the Crimson Tide to 0-of-8 shooting from the floor over the final four minutes.
“We won the game with our defense, by getting stops,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. “I think our defense was what saved us late. When you beat a ranked team on the road, you’ve really done something.”
The Rebels (9-6, 1-2) return home after a 67-51 loss at Texas A&M on Tuesday. Ole Miss trailed by just four points at halftime and stayed close until midway through the second half when it surrendered a 14-1 run to the Aggies that stoked the A&M lead to 53-38.
The Rebels got 11 points from Matthew Murrell in the defeat, his second straight game leading Ole Miss’ scorers after hitting a career-high 31 against Mississippi State on Jan. 8. The Rebels were just 5 of 22 from beyond the arc in the loss.
“I just thought that from the start our energy level was really low compared to games like Tennessee and State,” Rebels coach Kermit Davis said. “We just couldn’t get consistent play out of the gate. “We had no rhythm offensively and we weren’t very tough defensively.”
Mississippi was outscored 42-24 in the paint, outrebounded 31-28 and finished with just nine points from its bench in Tuesday’s loss.
“That’s one of the softest teams, just coaching, that I’ve ever put on the floor since I’ve been at Ole Miss,” Davis said.
Prior to the game Davis announced that guard Jarkel Joiner, the Rebels’ leading scorer at 13.6 points per game, would miss up to six weeks to undergo a procedure on his injured back. Joiner is the second high-profile Mississippi player to miss significant time this season. Forward Robert Allen is out for the year after tearing his ACL in December.
The Rebels won the past two games against the Tigers, including an 86-84 victory last February at Auburn in the most recent meeting. Auburn owns a 76-62 all-time edge over Ole Miss in a rivalry that began in 1928.
–Field Level Media