January 9, 2018 - Auburn Arena
For the first time since 2003, Auburn found themselves in the Top 25 after a 14-1 start, including 12 straight, and back to back wins over Top 25 opponents for the first time since 1986. Now the next question: how would Auburn deal with success?
I learned a valuable lesson on this evening and that was to make for sure to the Jungle gate in plenty of time before doors opened. During the non-conference season, I had gotten to the Arena about 20-30 minutes before doors opened and was one of a handful of people waiting to go in. Not for this game.
I did the same routine but the student body showed up by the masses and I was very fortunate to end up in the front row for this game. This game was played the night before the spring semester began so what better way to start the semester than checking out this basketball team that was growing before our eyes. It would be the last SEC game I would get to the gate any less than 90 minutes before doors opening. The Jungle was packed probably 10 minutes after the doors were opened which was great to see.
A thorn in Auburn’s side, the Ole Miss Rebels came to town on a 10 game winning streak against Auburn and had not lost to Auburn since 2012. This was now UAB coach Andy Kennedy’s final season in Oxford but he had Bruce Pearl’s number during his time at Ole Miss. Early in this game, it appeared history was going to repeat itself.
Ole Miss jumped out to a 19-11 lead 7:30 into the game, and the Tigers would respond with a 7-0 run. But Ole Miss had an answer every time the Tigers made a run and they led by 10 at halftime, 45-35.
Was Ole Miss going to do it again? Was the Top 25 ranking too much? It wouldn’t matter in the 2nd half of this one as Auburn turned it up a notch (or 10).
Anfernee McLemore would get it started with an easy dunk and the Tigers began chipping away at the 10 point halftime deficit. Finally, with 12 minutes to go, a bucket from Mustapha Heron would put Auburn in front 53-52, their 1st lead since leading 11-10 early in the game.
Heron and 3-point shooting from Bryce Brown was huge for Auburn over the next few minutes. The best play of the night happened with 9 minutes to go and Auburn up 58-54, Murray threw a bullet pass to a cutting Heron who banked in the basket while falling down. Mustapha converted the 3-point play to make it 61-54. After a Breein Tyree 3 on the other end, Bryce Brown responded with a 3 of his own. That was the last time Ole Miss was within 2 possessions the rest of the game.
Auburn would hold an 8-13 point lead into the closing minutes and Anfernee McLemore’s dunk with 1:35 off the lob to Jared Harper would really put the icing on the cake with Auburn taking their biggest lead at 78-65. Jared Harper made sure of it with a 3 in the closing seconds with Bryce Brown finishing it off with a steal and dunk to (quote Rod) “send everybody home with a smile on their face.”
Six players had at least 12 points in this game, led by Desean Murray with 16 points and 8 rebounds. Mustapha Heron had 15. Anfernee McLemore had 13 points and 9 rebounds. Bryce Brown also had 13 points. Jared Harper & Horace Spencer each had 12 points.
The win was Auburn’s 13th straight as the Tigers moved to 15-1 on the season and 3-0 in the SEC.
Here are the highlights!