Rebels Fall To Auburn, 65-62.
Feb. 13, 2002
By JOHN ZENOR
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) - Auburn's youth movement is already paying dividends.
Derrick Bird scored 22 points, including 19 in the second half, as the Tigers rallied for a 65-62 victory over Mississippi Wednesday night and their second straight win since shifting to a four-freshman starting lineup.
``We had a little bit of a sluggish start, and a lot of young teams would have just caved in against a strong team like Ole Miss, but not these guys,'' Auburn coach Cliff Ellis said. ``So many of our guys stepped up to the plate tonight.''
Foremost among them was Bird. The junior college transfer hit two free throws with 5.8 seconds left as the Tigers (11-11, 3-8 Southeastern Conference) overcame an 11-point second-half deficit and a miserable start to beat the Rebels (18-7, 7-5).
The Tigers took a 63-58 lead with 46 seconds left on Dwayne Mitchell's 3-pointer over Aaron Harper. Justin Reed, who had 17 points and 10 rebounds, hit a follow shot with 27 seconds left and stole Mitchell's inbound pass.
David Sanders drove to the basket for an easy layup with 6.3 seconds left. Then, the Rebels fouled Bird, who drilled both shots.
He was 3-of-4 from 3-point range, made all five free throws and had seven rebounds.
Sanders' 3-point try at the buzzer sailed over the rim.
The Tigers also beat No. 21 Georgia 75-72 to snap a six-game losing streak.
The Rebels fell 2-1/2 games behind Alabama in the SEC West race with their third loss in four games.
``They hit some big shots and got some big rebounds and we turned the ball over,'' Mississippi coach Rod Barnes said. ``I think our kids started looking at the clock and quit playing the game.''
Mitchell had 12 points for the Tigers, four more than his previous career-high. He said he's been taking 500 shots a day in practice, and the results were evident with 46 seconds left.
``Coach said to be patient, my time would come,'' Mitchell said. ``All that hard work in practice just gave me confidence.''
Reed had 15 second-half points for Mississippi. Sanders scored 14 points.
Mississippi, which led by 18 at one point in the first half, took a 44-33 lead with 13:55 left in the second. Derrick Allen's putback capped an 11-2 run.
Bird, who had nine of Auburn's first 11 points after halftime, then hit two straight shots.
``It came down to hustle plays, and they made the hustle plays in the second half, getting the loose balls and coming up with big rebounds,'' said Mississippi's Jason Harrison.
The Tigers only briefly located their offense in the first half, but still trailed just 31-26 at halftime.
Auburn fell behind 23-5 and needed nearly 12 minutes to get its first field goal after starting 0-for-8.
A quick 17-0 run, capped by 3-pointers from Bird and Adam Harrington, gave the Tigers a brief lead but Mississippi scored the next eight points.
``I was very disappointed with the score when we got into halftime,'' Barnes said. ``We just didn't play very smart.''
Auburn was playing without the league's leading shotblocker, Kyle Davis, who was suspended for the game for his part in a fight with Georgia's Steve Thomas.
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