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#11 Auburn @ Ole Miss - Game Preview and Open Thread

Auburn’s road to defending their SEC title begins tonight!

NCAA Basketball: Murray State at Auburn Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

Date: Wednesday January 9th

Opponent: Ole Miss Rebels

Location: The Pavilion - Oxford, Mississippi

Time: 6PM

Network: ESPN2, Auburn Radio Network

Get to Know Ole Miss...

If you want to get an Ole Miss perspective on tonight’s game, check out this Q&A I conducted earlier this week with Red Cup Rebellion. Ole Miss comes into tonight’s contest averaging 79.5 points a game, while giving up just 66.5 points a game. Ole Miss has won 8 straight games and their 2 losses are at Butler and against Cincinnati on a neutral floor. The Rebels are undefeated in the Pavilion so far this year and in the building’s brief history, this is one of the biggest home games for Ole Miss in quite some time. Ole Miss plays 2 Top 15 schools this week as after hosting Auburn tonight, they play at Mississippi State Saturday night.

This will be a great matchup between both teams backcourts. Jared Harper and Bryce Brown vs. Breein Tyree and Terence Davis. In fact, we are probably looking at the 2 best backcourts in the SEC and like Auburn’s, this is a duo of veterans Auburn’s going up against tonight. Tyree (#4) is the leading scorer for Ole Miss and he’s thrived under first-year head coach Kermit Davis. After averaging just 10.8 points a game last year, the junior is averaging 18.4 points a game this year, 2nd in the SEC. He is coming off a career high 31 points in their win over Vanderbilt Saturday night. While he’s nowhere near the high volume 3-point shooter as Harper and Brown, he is shooting 42.6% from 3-point range.

Terence Davis (#3) is averaging 15.2 points a game in his senior season. He is second on the team averaging 5.2 rebounds a game while shooting 41.8% from 3-point range. Davis has 4 20 points games this year and a 30 point game, that came in a loss against Butler. To round off the excellent guard play for Ole Miss, Devontae Shuler (#2) averages 10.4 points a game and is one of their best defenders, currently sitting 5th in the SEC in steals per game.

In the paint, Ole Miss has 6’8” senior forward Bruce Stevens (#12) averaging 9.4 points a game while 7’0 Polish center Dominik Olejniczak (#13) averages about 6 points per game.

One other key matchup to watch tonight is free throw shooting. Ole Miss leads the league in free throw % shooting 76.6% while Auburn is 12th in the SEC shooting just 67.5%. This is another statistic Auburn has got to improve on if they have any aspirations of winning the SEC this year.

What to Look for from Auburn...

This is a game where Auburn can dominate in the paint and I think this could very well be the Austin Wiley or Chuma Okeke game. This will be the best frontcourt that Ole Miss has seen and Auburn’s depth at the position could make a difference in this game. With Wiley in the starting lineup, he’s going to play more than 17.6 minutes a game, his average in non-conference play. As for Okeke, Bruce Pearl and Auburn fans have waited for him to be more aggressive and willing to take more shots. I have a good feeling tonight might be that night.

Jared Harper co-leads the SEC averaging 6.8 assists a game, alongside Arkansas’s Jalen Harris. I look for Harper to continue to look to feed the big guys inside consistently tonight as he’s recorded 10 assists in each the team’s last 2 games. One other guy that I have a feeling will have a good night is Malik Dunbar. Dunbar has been Auburn’s best bench player and I just think Auburn will need an spark from him and Horace Spencer at some point in tonight’s game.

Score Prediction

This game concerns me a lot more than I ever thought it would when the season started 2 months ago. There’s a few things to take into consideration here. One, Auburn hasn’t played in 11 days so a slow start is very much possible in this one and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit. Ole Miss has momentum right now by playing and winning on Saturday night, while Auburn’s had this long break. Three, it’s a mid-week road game and those can be very tricky (see Mississippi State last night against South Carolina). That said, I think Auburn’s too much in the paint for Ole Miss and while I think this game will be close all the way, I think Auburn has just enough to get the road victory.

Auburn 79 Ole Miss 72