Auburn has flipped the fortunes of last season when it comes to the Kermit Davis Ole Miss Rebels.
Last season, Davis’ defense frustrated the Tigers into two losses, and Ole Miss was responsible for one of the only two home losses at Auburn Arena in the past two seasons. Instead, this year has seen Bruce Pearl figure something out and take two victories from the Rebels, including tonight’s win by a 67-58 score during which Auburn never trailed.
Isaac Okoro returned to action after a three-game stint on the injury list, and Austin Wiley proved to be too much with another large double-double, and the Tigers improved to 24-4 on the year, 11-5 in the SEC. The victory sets up a gigantic matchup in Lexington this Saturday against Kentucky, where Auburn will find out its fate in a quest for a third straight SEC Championship.
Tonight, however, Auburn controlled the action from tip to horn. Danjel Purifoy scored just 30 seconds in, and then a 7-0 run after Ole Miss’ opening bucket gave the Tigers a 9-2 lead at the first timeout. After a scoreless span that stretched nearly three minutes, Jaylin Williams came back in for his first action of the night, and had an immediate impact with a dunk and six quick points. Auburn’s lead worked back out to eight points near the end of the first half, and Williams provided another highlight play with a no-look pass to Anfernee McLemore for a dunk.
Jaylin Williams no-look pass to McLemore who brings the hammer pic.twitter.com/pI1ORAYQoY— Skye Underwood (@SkyeUnderwood) February 26, 2020
That stuck the advantage at 31-21 in favor of Auburn, but Breein Tyree buried a three in the final minute, and Auburn led 31-24 at halftime.
After the intermission, Ole Miss found its footing offensively, and showed the first of many runs in the second half. At the first timeout of the period, they’d cut the Tiger lead to 36-33, but Auburn answered as they would all game long. Samir Doughty led a charge to expand the margin back to eight points, but Ole Miss struck back. A 6-0 run entirely at the free throw line got the Rebels as close as they would find themselves the entire second half. Auburn hit back, stringing together nine consecutive points and building their largest lead of the half at 58-46 after Devan Cambridge’s dunk and three back-to-back. Ole Miss’ final burst consisted of two straight threes, but Auburn would close the game at the foul line and defensive end with Austin Wiley blocking shots and inbound passes in the closing moments.
Overall, it wasn’t the most tense game for Auburn, and they sweep Ole Miss after losing two to the Rebels in 2019. The Tigers worked Isaac Okoro back into the game a bit, and actually shot extremely well from the floor at 47% overall. Ole Miss hit just 34% of its shots, but out-rebounded the Tigers 33-32. Auburn won the game inside, scoring 38 points in the paint and controlling the game defensively when Wiley was on the floor.
Now that Auburn has taken care of business and gotten through the Okoro-less wasteland at 1-2,the Tigers must win the final three games to have a shot to win the SEC regular season title. With Kentucky winning tonight against Texas A&M, they’ll head into Saturday’s game with a 13-2 record in SEC play, while Auburn sits two games back. We’ll need some help, and may need to pull for Florida as the Cats visit Gainesville next week. Tipoff for this weekend’s game comes at 2:45 pm CST from Rupp Arena. War Eagle!