The Stretch 4: Auburn has played Ole Miss 142 times — but never like this
Saturday night will mark the Flanigans' return to the Plains, along with the first ranked vs. ranked matchup in Tigers vs. Rebels history.
(Zach Bland/Auburn Tigers)
Auburn has played Ole Miss in men’s basketball 142 times. The Tigers and the Rebels have faced each other twice in every regular season since 1964.
But they’ve never played against each other when both teams were in the AP Top 25 — until Saturday night, when No. 13 Auburn hosts No. 22 Ole Miss.
“I think it's obviously what Coach (Chris) Beard and what I have worked towards, and that is to have an Ole Miss-Auburn game (with) two ranked opponents,” Bruce Pearl said Friday afternoon. “That has never happened. That's crazy, right? It's never happened.”
Auburn and Ole Miss have a long history against each other, but they haven’t been historically dominant programs. Ole Miss didn’t make its AP poll debut until 1997. Until this season, the two teams had only been ranked in the same year at all once before: 2019, when Ole Miss beat Auburn twice before the sprint to the Final Four.
And, speaking of history, Saturday night will feature the highly anticipated return of Allen Flanigan and his father Wes Flanigan to Neville Arena. This past offseason, the elder Flanigan reunited with Beard at Ole Miss, and the younger Flanigan followed as a transfer.
Pearl has had talented, winning players such as Flanigan leave his program before. He’s faced former assistants before, too, like Todd Golden at Florida. But this visit from Ole Miss and the Flanigans is different — they are Auburn alumni, and they were both instrumental in the Tigers winning a title.
“The biggest thing that I've said, and it's really the only thing I've said about it, is just that I hope that our students remember that those guys both graduated from Auburn,” Pearl said. “They're both Auburn men… take that into consideration. Because I'd rather have them treated as Auburn men — and opponents — than any animosity about the transfer.”
Allen Flanigan returns to Auburn as the No. 2 scorer on an Ole Miss team that has only lost twice this season. He has been, as expected, a crucial part of what the Rebels have built in Beard’s first campaign.
And, for the veterans who were longtime teammates with Flanigan, they know exactly what they’re going to get from the Arkansas native.
“It’ll be good to see Al,” Jaylin Williams said. “I haven’t seen him and Coach Flan in a while. Coach Flan is one of the ones that really helped me to get here to Auburn. So I’m thankful for him to give the opportunity to coach me here. But it’ll be fun. A little chippy. A little talk. But at the end of the day, that’s still my brother, and that’s how it’s going to be.”
“Me and Al have a long history,” Chris Moore added. “I've known him since I was a little, little kid. It's going to be fun playing against him. This will be one of my fifth or sixth times playing against him in an actual game. Me and him might get a little chippy — we might do a little talking. It's going to be all love at the end of the day. He's my brother, and he's always going to be my brother.”
For more on Auburn’s high-profile matchup with Ole Miss on Saturday night, here’s this week’s edition of The Stretch 4 here at The Observer.
C Johni Broome (Zach Bland/Auburn Tigers)
Johni Broome will be ‘good to go’ vs. Ole Miss
Pearl said on the “Tiger Talk” radio show Thursday night that Johni Broome was “fine” after having an injury scare toward the end of Auburn’s win over Vanderbilt on Wednesday night.
Broome “banged knees” with a defender while driving toward the basket. After staying on the floor for a while, Broome went to the free-throw line and split his shots before subbing out for Dylan Cardwell for the rest of the game.
But Broome was a participant in practice Thursday, and Pearl took it a step further with an update on his status before Friday’s practice.
“Johni will be good to go,” Pearl said.
That’s huge for the Tigers, as Ole Miss is going to be one of the best teams at the rim that Auburn will play all season.