No. 11 Auburn Ends Rebels' Home Winning Streak
Jan. 30, 2018
By Brian Scott Rippee, OleMissSports.com
OXFORD, Miss. -- Ole Miss hung around amidst a slew of foul trouble and some struggles on the offensive end, but the No. 11 Auburn Tigers imposed their will down the stretch, particularly on the glass, as the Rebels fell 79-70 Tuesday night at The Pavilion.
The win dropped Ole Miss to 11-11 (4-4 SEC) while Auburn's impressive run atop the SEC standings continued with its fourth straight win to improve to 20-2 (8-1 SEC).
The first half was a sluggish one on either side as both teams struggled to get into a rhythm. This could partly be attributed to the 25 total fouls called in the first half that saw seven different Rebels pick up two fouls, including forwards Bruce Stevens, Marcanvis Hymon and Dominik Olejniczak. It limited what Andy Kennedy could do in terms of adjustments and forced him to play a smaller lineup.
"We need an inside presence," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "We cannot rely on perimeter shots. We tried to play inside-out, but when our inside guys are out of the game then we end up making some poor decisions."
Ole Miss fought through it. The majority of Deandre Burnett's 12 first half points came in the final minutes of the opening half, preventing Auburn from pushing to a sizable lead. The Rebels went into the halftime locker room trailing 38-36 and were still very much in the ballgame.
The two teams battled back and forth in the early stages of the second half. Ole Miss trimmed the lead to one point a number of times, but Auburn seemed to have an answer each time. The Tigers didn't shoot the basketball particularly well on the night at 26 of 67 for 38 percent, but imposed their will on the Rebels on the glass in the second half. Auburn grabbed 19 offensive rebounds, 12 coming in the final 20 minutes and parlayed those to a total of 17 second chance points and 32 points in the paint total.
"Offensive rebounding," Markel Crawford said. "They killed us on the glass. Whenever a team comes in and gets 19 offensive rebounds, 12 in the second half, you don't have a good chance of winning against a good team."
The rebounding margin was just 42-41 in favor of the Tigers, but it did its damage where it hurt most on the offensive glass.
Auburn is one of the quicker teams in the SEC, and in the second half they began to spread the Rebels out across the floor and get to the rim off the dribble. Bryce Brown had 19 second-half points en route to a 23-point game to lead the team in scoring.
"They spread you out," Kennedy said. "They're fast. They don't have watchers. Sometimes we get locked into the ball, and the guy who is guarding the man who shot the layup still doesn't know it was his man. They spread you, they cut you and they get it on the glass."
Ole Miss cut the lead to 59-55 with 7:57 left in the game before Auburn put together a 13-2 to run that served as the finishing blow to the Rebels.
"They just looked faster to me," Andy Kennedy said. "They were faster to the ball. We cut it to a four-point game and then they had a couple of possessions where they got multiple opportunities off the backboard. We tried to go small and got in foul trouble, and we could just not secure the defensive glass."
The Tigers had four players in double figures. Mustrapha Heron had 16 points and Jared Harper had 13 behind him. Ole Miss is one of the better teams at taking care of the basketball in the SEC largely thanks to its veteran guards. But the Rebels uncharacteristically turned the ball over 17 times on this night.
"It comes down to decision making and playing through contact," Kennedy said. "These games are hard to win and you have to play through contact and I thought they knocked us off our spot a little bit. We didn't handle the ball the way we needed to."
Between the rebounding and the turnovers, it equated to the first home SEC loss of the season. The Rebels have nine SEC games remaining on their schedule, eight of which come against RPI top 100 teams. The opportunities are still in front of them, but time is also melting away.
"Everybody has to have a sense of urgency," Crawford said. "We have to play hard every play and cannot relax."
Following the midweek game at home, the Rebels hit the road to face another ranked opponent. Ole Miss travels to #18 Tennessee on Saturday, Feb. 3, for part one of the season series with the Volunteers. Tipoff is slated for 5 p.m. CT on SEC Network.
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