Earlier this evening, we got word that Justin Powell still wasn’t over his head injury from the other night and wouldn’t be traveling with the team to Oxford for tonight’s game between Auburn and Ole Miss.
The night went downhill from there as the Tigers headed into the Pavilion shorthanded from the start and fell to the Rebels 72-61. While the game might not have been quite as close as the final margin may indicate, Auburn drops to 0-3 in the SEC and 6-5 overall and will take on Alabama this Saturday at 11 am CST.
Auburn’s good shooting over the past few games faltered on the road tonight, as the Tigers hit just 37% from the floor in the first half, and only had one player with multiple buckets (Jaylin Williams with 16 first-half points). Meanwhile, Ole Miss forced 12 turnovers during the opening frame and shot 45% to take a 43-29 halftime lead. Auburn went down 17-9 in the first seven minutes, but then quickly pulled within a point after three straight buckets. Ole Miss answered with a large run, building a 28-17 edge moments later before a Devontae Shuler three gave the Rebels their largest lead at 40-24 with 2:56 to go until halftime. At the break, the lead was 14 points, with Kadim Sy leading the way for the home team with 11 points on 3-3 shooting from downtown.
The Tigers were so shorthanded without Sharife Cooper STILL, and without Justin Powell, that walk-on Lior Berman entered the game with 8 minutes left in the first half of a somewhat competitive game.
After the half, Auburn started to clean some things up and had fewer turnovers, but couldn’t quell the Ole Miss shooting. The Rebels built an 18-point lead at 56-38 with 12:37 to go, but the Tigers didn’t quit. Back to back threes from Jamal Johnson and Jaylin Williams opened the gates, and Johnson’s second three in a few minutes helped cut the lead to single digits for the first time since midway through the first half at 58-49. Another Johnson three pulled Auburn within the smallest margin of the second half at 60-52, but Ole Miss hit a spurt and reopened a 67-52 lead in the final three minutes. In the end, Auburn couldn’t close the gap and fell 72-61.
What we can take away from this game is that this team absolutely doesn’t quit, and plays just like you’ve come to know Bruce Pearl teams playing over the past several seasons. With a full complement of players, and if we ever get the talented Sharife Cooper onto the floor, this could be a team that really bothers the rest of the league. Next season will likely be a true title contender with the addition of Jabari Smith as well.