Men's Basketball Falls to No. 3 Auburn
February 9, 1999
By JENNA HALVATGIS
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) - Playing on national television for the first time this season, No. 3 Auburn put on a show Tuesday night.
Bryant Smith scored 15 points and the Tigers set a school record with their 23rd win of the season, beating Mississippi 95-66.
"It was our chance to show the world what we do," Smith said. "And we were more than ready to do it."
The Tigers (23-1, 11-1 Southeastern Conference), who also tied a school record with their 13th home win of the season, clinched at least a tie for the SEC West title with four league games remaining.
Winning the league was one of the early goals coach Cliff Ellis set for the team, and accomplishing it so soon surprised him.
"Give the guys all the credit, they now have a piece of the SEC West," Ellis said. "That was just one of the goals and you can't take it away from them."
The Tigers are now setting their sights on the NCAA tournament, which they haven't been to in 10 years - the longest drought of any SEC school. Not only is a bid guaranteed, but the Tigers are aiming for a No. 1 seed.
"We don't like to overstep ourselves, but we know we are making a run towards the NCAA," Smith said. "We feel we have a very good chance to go deep into it."
Ole Miss (17-8, 7-5), which beat No. 23 Florida on Saturday, had its three-game winning streak snapped and fell four games behind Auburn in the SEC West.
"We knew Ole Miss had to have this game to stay in it," Ellis said. "I told the team this was a national audience, just go out and be aggressive and execute."
With its highest ranking since spending one week at No. 2 in 1959, Auburn wanted to prove to its ESPN audience how good it was. The Tigers wasted little time doing it, opening the game with a 20-4 run.
"We came out on a bad night and they are a good team who was pumped up for the game," Ole Miss coach Rod Barnes said. "Everything snowballed on us from there."
Auburn shot 54 percent in the first half and led 50-20 at the break.
"We just came out and hit them early," guard Scott Pohlman said. "We try to start the first five minutes hard and set a good tempo. We definitely did that tonight and caught them off guard."
Ole Miss could never find a rhythm against Auburn's stifling man-to-man defense and always seemed at least one step behind. After shooting only 21 percent in the first half, the Rebels were out of it early. They shot 34 percent for the game and were 4-of-24 from 3-point range.
The Tigers were too quick for the Rebels, making 10 steals and forcing 20 turnovers.
"We were playing awesome basketball, it was just awesome from all aspects," Ellis said. "We seemed to catch Ole Miss on a bad night."
Pohlman scored 13 points, Doc Robinson had 12 and Reggie Sharp came off the bench to score a career-high 11 for Auburn. Mamadou N'diaye tied a career-high with six blocks.
Chris Porter, back in the starting lineup after beginning the last two games on the bench, had eight points and seven rebounds for the Tigers in only 22 minutes. Ellis benched him midway through the second half for poor shot selection.
"You're not going to take those shots and play for me," Ellis said about taking Porter out of the game.
Michael White led Ole Miss with 19 points. Jason Smith added 12 points and
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