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GAME RECAP: #17 Auburn 83, Ole Miss 82 (2 OT)

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Road woes continue in Oxford... for a while.

NCAA Basketball: Auburn at Mississippi Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Once again, the road wasn’t easy for Auburn, as they fell into a huge hole and had to dig their way out in a hostile arena. Trailing by 19 early in the second half, the Tigers surged back to force double overtime at the Pavilion in Oxford before somehow coming away with an 83-82 win in double overtime. It’s Auburn’s third-largest comeback ever, and it improves the Tigers’ record to 18-2 overall.

The first half was a study in futility, as Auburn couldn’t find a way to successfully pass, catch, shoot, or rebound. Ole Miss got two wins over the Tigers in 2019 by employing a similar style of basketball, and Bruce Pearl had no answer. It didn’t help that the Rebels seemingly made every late shot clock three and Auburn had two of their worst shooting nights of the season. You would’ve thought we popped in the tape from those games this evening.

Auburn committed 10 turnovers, went 1-12 from three, and hit just 21% of field goals overall, while the Rebels blistered the nets for a 56% total from the field. After going up 2-0 on an Austin Wiley jam, Auburn gave up a 15-0 run to Ole Miss and never got within single digits for the rest of the period. Wiley’s dunk was the only basket for the Tigers until Danjel Purifoy hit a little floater at the 10:00 mark of the half, and Auburn trailed 17-5 at that spot. It took thirteen minutes for Auburn to hit double digits, and they only cracked the 20-point mark when Anfernee McLemore hit the Tigers’ first three with 35 seconds left in the half, but Ole Miss went into the locker room up 37-20.

Things didn’t begin all that well in the second half either, as Ole Miss scored the first basket out of the break, but Auburn went on a 10-0 run to pull within single digits, as McLemore’s second three fell to make it 39-30. Unfortunately, the Rebels answered Auburn’s run with one of their own, pushing the margin back to 17 points at 48-31 on Blake Hinson’s stepback three. Hinson had been doing most of the damage for Ole Miss with 16 points at the 11:49 mark of the second half, as Auburn had limited Breein Tyree for the most part.

Despite the drudgery, Auburn somehow strung together a 12-0 run, buoyed by back to back McLemore threes, and with 10:21, they trailed just 48-43, forcing Ole Miss to take a timeout of their own. At the under-8 timeout, the Rebels had rebuilt the 10-point lead at 54-44 thanks to a few trips to the foul line, and Auburn was in danger of running out of time for the comeback.

With 5:15 left, Samir Doughty forced Breein Tyree to commit his fifth foul and then buried a pair of free throws to cut the lead down to just 63-56, then Isaac Okoro scored a tough rebound and putback, and at the final timeout of the game, Auburn trailed just 63-58 with the ball. Two free throws from Okoro and a transition bucket from Purifoy later, and the deficit was one point with 2:54 left. Finally, J’Von McCormick drove and scored to tie the game at 64 at the two minute mark, and then Samir Doughty did the same to put Auburn on top at 66-64. It was Auburn’s first lead since going up 2-0 to start the game. Devontae Shuler knocked down a pair of free throws to tie the game, and Auburn would have one final chance to try and win the game in regulation.

After a frenzied near-disaster, where Ole Miss stole the ball from McCormick but Doughty was able to get his hands on it, Auburn’s last possession ended in a missed three from Okoro, and we headed to overtime.

Danjel Purifoy hit a huge three midway through the period to give the Tigers a 70-69 lead, and then another McLemore triple put Auburn up 74-69 with 1:45 to go. After an Ole Miss dunk, the Rebels seemingly tried to employ the strategy of fouling Auburn, and Doughty banged home two foul shots to put Auburn up by five with 50 seconds, but Devontae Shuler converted a three point play to cut the deficit back down to two for Ole Miss, and then Shuler got fouled on a rebound and got to head to the line for two shots to tie the game with 22 seconds left. Tied at 77, Auburn missed a final shot to win, but the officials said that there were still 2.1 seconds on the clock when Ole Miss called timeout, and the Rebels threw the ball away on their inbound play. Isaac Okoro corraled it, called timeout, but Doughty missed a long three at the buzzer, and we headed to another overtime.

K.J. Buffen put Ole Miss up 82-78 with two straight driving buckets in the second overtime, but an Isaac Okoro drive and foul put the Tigers back up 83-82. After a Samir Doughty miss on Auburn’s final possession, Ole Miss had a chance to win but Blake Hinson’s three glanced off the rim as time expired.

Either way, the first half was more of the same when you look at the issues that Auburn has faced all season. There were better trends heading into the second half, obviously, as the Tigers erased a 19-point deficit. The losses at Alabama and Florida didn’t have any positive to hang onto, but tonight the comeback was indicative of a different attitude on the road after a slow start. We saw once again that Samir Doughty can take over a game, but the consistency needs to be there more since he went scoreless in the first half.

Anfernee McLemore led Auburn with 19 points, including 5 threes, while Doughty, Okoro, Purifoy, and McCormick all finished in double figures as well. Ole Miss was led by Devontae Shuler’s 26 points, which include a 13-18 mark from the free throw line.

Up next for the Tigers it’s the biggest game of the season as Kentucky comes calling on Saturday night. College Gameday will be in attendance Saturday morning at Auburn Arena, and the Tigers will host the Wildcats for the first meeting since the overtime win in the Elite Eight last season. Tipoff comes at 5 pm CST from the Plains.