Tigers Own Ole Miss in Oxford
Mustapha Herron scored 16 points in the Tigers victory over Ole Miss (AuburnTigers.com)
If you were to read one of the articles from reporters who didn’t watch the game or took a cursory look at the score, you might assume a few things about Auburn basketball’s win last night in Oxford. The Tigers’ 20th win was a solid nine-point victory for the SEC’s top team. That’s an accomplishment Auburn has managed only one other time this early in the season. It also took place on January 30th, exactly 20 years ago.
A slightly deeper look would show that Auburn was up significantly more than than nine points in the last few minutes of the game before Ole Miss was able to score some garbage time points. No, Patrick Keim and other reserve players weren’t on the floor when the Rebel starters sank the last few buckets. Ole Miss earned them for sure. And no, Ole Miss wasn’t blown out the entire game as the spread in the waning moments made it appear. The last few minutes don’t always represent the game accurately.
This was a good, hard-earned win for Auburn. Despite Ole Miss being a mid-tier team, it possesses some quality wins over good SEC teams. Auburn blew the Rebs out 20 days ago, but this time around Ole Miss had a red hot Deandre Burnett back on the floor, adding to the challenge of playing the Rebels on their home court.
Bryce Brown was able to keep Burnett in check, limiting him to near his average. Burnett was coming off of two straight 20+ point games, but he still led the Rebels with 16 points.
However, the true back breaker for Ole Miss was Jared Harper’s work in stopping the other guard, Breein Tyree. When Ole Miss was leading, or keeping it a one-possession game, it was Tyree’s ball movement that kept the Rebels in the game. His six points to end the first half kept Ole Miss close. Harper adjusted in the second half and stopped the ball movement.
It wasn’t just Tyree off the dribble that hurt Auburn as much as it was the space that he created on the floor for the Rebels’ attack. Unfortunately for Ole Miss, the Rebels didn’t shoot very well, only 41 percent from the field and a dreadful 23 percent from long range, but Ole Miss’ spacing kept Auburn from being able to rebound long bounces off the rim following long shots. Ole Miss pulled down 16 offensive rebounds. Almost every bad bounce went Ole Miss’ way, which really helped the Rebels even though it was apparent that Auburn was the better team.
The Tigers really struggled with Ole Miss’ length on the inside as poor shots were taken and sometimes rejected all together. It didn’t help that Auburn couldn’t convert on the simplest of offensive putbacks. Auburn pulled down 19 offensive rebounds but missed almost every single dunk attempt. Bryce Brown, however, couldn’t miss, and it wasn’t from downtown. His rebounds in the paint led to at least three short putbacks. He led all scorers with 23 points, hitting 3–7 from beyond the arc. Auburn only hit 9–28 from downtown in an off night, but it was enough to overcome the Rebels’ inside domination.
Desean Murray’s nine points were the fewest among Auburn’s five starters. On the other hand, Ole Miss relied on the bench for 26 points—more than three times as many as Auburn’s eight.
Other stories for the night were the continual presence of SEC referees, who made the first half of this game utterly unwatchable. Ole Miss was in the double bonus extremely early the contest, and Auburn shot poorly from the line. The Pavilion was extremely loud with chants of “FBI.” However, the crowd disappeared altogether when Auburn took a 13-point lead midway through the second half.
Ole Miss did put things on tape for the upcoming hard stretch of games left on Auburn’s schedule. Future opponents now know that Auburn can be dominated inside and limited with time-eating possessions.
Auburn returns home Saturday to play Vanderbilt. ESPN gives Vandy an 11.5 percent chance to win in what has been an underwhelming season for the ‘Dores. At 8–14 Vandy is in the SEC basement despite taking Kentucky to overtime in its last contest inside Rupp Arena.
Forward Jeff Roberson should be the only ‘Dore to be a problem for the Tigers. He leads the Commodores with 15 points per game. However, at 6’ 6″ he won’t be a mismatch for Auburn’s Anfernee McLemore or Horace Spencer. Riley LaChance can hurt Auburn from the outside, but Bryce Brown has done well at limiting long ballers.
The Tigers and Commodores tip off at 7:30 on the SEC Network.
Make sure to follow me @Best5Zach on twitter for in-game action.