Observations: Auburn 80, Ole Miss 71
The Tigers didn't let their chance at history slip away, rallying from 14 down to move to 5-0 in the SEC for the first time since 1999.
PG/SG Zep Jasper (Petre Thomas/Courtesy of Auburn Athletics)
For the first 18:40 of action, it felt like most everybody in The Pavilion at Ole Miss was shocked at what was happening.
Ole Miss was up by 13 after a putback basket by Nysier Brooks. A team that had only scored 51 points in 40 minutes at Texas A&M earlier in the week had 44 on one of the nation’s best defenses before halftime. The Rebels hadn’t turned the ball over or committed a foul — an unbelievable stretch of mistake-free basketball.
The Ole Miss crowd got louder with every made shot, trying to will the hosts to an upset. The thousands of Auburn fans who made the trip to Oxford tried to match their volume, but there hadn’t been much to cheer about to that point. Kermit Davis was seemingly getting the best of Bruce Pearl one more time.
Then Auburn looked like Auburn again.
Allen Flanigan hit a tough shot. Walker Kessler stole the ball — Ole Miss’ first turnover — and slammed it on the other end via a Wendell Green Jr. lob. K.D. Johnson got two more on back-to-back possessions and drew Ole Miss’ first two fouls, going 3-4 from the line.
Even after a near-perfect half of basketball from Ole Miss, Auburn was only down by six.
“They were up a little bit too much going into halftime,” Johnson said. “I came down and got two crucial steals late in the first half to knock the lead down a little bit. That helped us come out hard in the second half.”
The Pavilion sounded more like Auburn Arena. After halftime, the scoreboard reflected one of an overtaken venue. Former Auburn commitment Daeshun Ruffin hit a 3-pointer early in the second half for Ole Miss before the Tigers went on a 33-13 run — going from down by nine to up by 11.
Ole Miss would cut the lead down to four, but that was as close as it would get. Auburn finished well for its 13th straight win, covered the point spread and moved one step closer to, potentially, the first No. 1 ranking in program history.
“We’ve been managing the target (on our backs) a little bit for the last week or so, because we've kind of put ourselves in position — all of a sudden — where we started, you know, climbing the rankings a little bit,” Pearl said. “And so we had to deal with it tonight. … It is historic, and it does matter. And it does mean something. You know, that'll be a proud moment for Auburn, period.”
Here are five Observations, the Rotation Charts, the Nerd Stats and the Quote of the Night from Auburn’s 80-71 win over Ole Miss.
Defense and depth win out, yet again
In the first half, Ole Miss played one of the best 20-minute sets of offensive basketball you will ever see. The Rebels averaged 1.375 points per possession, scored on 59.4% of their trips down the floor and went a sizzling 6-12 from 3-point range.
In the second half, Auburn played one of the best 20-minute sets of defensive basketball you will ever see. The Tigers allowed baskets on just seven of 22 Ole Miss attempts (29.2%), averaged just 0.844 points per possession and had a combined 12 blocks and steals on 32 trips down the floor.
So what changed?