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Ole Miss Men’s Basketball Travels to Auburn to Tangle with the Tigers

By Adam Brown
Sports Editor

Ole Miss men’s basketball travels over to the Plains of Auburn, Alabama to tangle with the No. 3 Auburn Tigers on hardwood Wednesday night. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. CT on SEC Network.

Ole Miss (13-14, 4-10 SEC) picked up a 85-68 win at Georgia on Saturday. The Rebels were led on the court by Tye Fagan with 20 points. Ole Miss shot 55.9 percent overall and held Georgia to 37.5 percent from the field.

Against the Bulldogs, coach Kermit Davis were without Jarkel Joiner and Matthew Murrell in the contest due to the flu.

Auburn enters Wednesday night at 24-3 overall, an SEC-leading 12-2 in conference play, and are ranked No. 3 by the Associated Press and No. 4 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. The Tigers have been nationally ranked each week this season, never falling further than No. 22 in either poll and rising as high as No. 1 across a three-week stretch from Jan. 24 to Feb. 7. In the NET ratings, Auburn is currently slotted at No. 10, with the Tigers owning a combined 13-3 record against Quad 1 (7-3) and Quad 2 (6-0), and a perfect 11-0 record against Quad 3 (7-0) and Quad 4 (4-0).

Auburn won 23 of its first 24 games of the season, including 19 in a row from Nov. 25 to Feb. 5 before an overtime loss at Arkansas on Feb. 8 (80-76). The Tigers are coming off an upset loss at Florida on Feb. 19 (63-62), and their lone non-conference blemish comes from a double overtime loss to UConn on Nov. 24 in the Battle 4 Atlantis (115-109). During their 19-game winning streak, Auburn was outscoring opponents by an average of +14.2 points per game (79.5-65.3), while shooting 45.5 percent overall, winning the rebounding margin by an average of +5.2 per game, and holding opposing defenses to just 38.6 percent shooting overall and 30.6 percent from beyond the arc.

Auburn’s national rankings are highly indicative of a top-five team. The Tigers own a bruising shot defense, leading the NCAA in blocks per game (8.2), while ranking second in the SEC and 13th nationally at an opposing field goal clip of just 38.4 percent. Auburn is also superb on the ball, recording the NCAA’s 27th-most steals at 8.6 per game (No. 4 SEC). The Tigers are also spectacular on the glass, leading the SEC in defensive rebounds per game (27.8) while also ranking top-five in offensive rebounds at 12.7 per game (No. 5) and total rebounding margin at +5.4 per game (No. 3). That all combines to give Auburn the NCAA’s 11th-best scoring margin at +12.9 points per game (No. 2 SEC), helped by the 19th-best scoring offense at 79.8 points per game (No. 3 SEC).

The Tigers are led by freshman Jabari Smith, who was the highest rated commit in the history of Auburn basketball last season. Smith averages 16.3 points (No. 7 SEC), 6.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.0 blocks per game while shooting 43.8 percent overall, 43.3 percent from three and 79.7 percent from the free throw line. Smith also leads in total threes made with 61 trifectas. Other Tigers averaging double-digit scoring include K.D. Johnson (12.7) and Wendell Green Jr. (12.4), while Walker Kessler leads the NCAA in blocks per game (4.6) and ranks fourth in field goal percentage at his SEC-leading 64.5 percent clip. Kessler averages 12.0 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, and against the Rebels on Jan. 15 he tallied 20 points, 10 rebounds, seven blocks, four steals and one assist.

Wednesday night marks the 143rd all-time meeting between the Rebels and Tigers. Auburn hols a 80-62 advantage in the all-time series. The Rebels hold a 17-game edge in Oxford at 43-26, including a 4-3 record since SJB Pavilion opened in January 2016. Auburn, meanwhile, holds a wide 51-17 advantage on their turf. The Rebels are on top in all the other specialty categories, however, with a 4-1 lead on neutral sites, 3-1 lead in the postseason, and a 4-3 lead in overtime games.

Adam Brown
Adam Brown
Sports Editor

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