Ole Miss men’s basketball hung tough for spurts, but No. 3 Auburn proved itself as one of the top-tier teams in the nation, using a series of first-half runs to separate from the Rebels, 77-64, at Auburn Arena on Wednesday night.
The Rebels (13-15, 4-11 SEC) nearly broke even with the 3rd-ranked Tigers (25-3, 13-2 SEC) in the second half despite running into foul trouble and only shooting 35.7 percent in the final 20 minutes, but three first-half Auburn runs of at least 7-0 – topped by an 11-0 stretch – helped give the Tigers enough space to outlast the hard-fighting Ole Miss squad.
“I thought our team started the second half terrific when we got it to a one-possession game, and then I thought we had some unbelievably good looks in the second half,” said Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis. “Some of the guys that made a bunch of baskets against Georgia had some of the same looks tonight, and they just didn’t get it. We got Auburn’s best tonight, but I thought we were right there. If we make a few timely shots, I think it’s a one or two-possession game late.”
While the Rebels opened the scoring via a Matthew Murrell fastbreak dunk, the Tigers got off to a strong start, scoring seven unanswered to jump out to an early 7-2 lead. Responding with a 9-2 run of their own, the Rebels regained the lead at the 14:04 mark, with five different Rebels contributing on the offensive side of the ball during the run.
Auburn would respond with yet another run, this time logging a 15-2 spurt in which the Rebels went without a field goal from 13:34 to 8:46. It was from this point that the Tigers would control the remainder of the half, as Auburn would lean on the length of Walker Kessler (12 points, 10 rebounds, eight blocks, one assist, one steal) to hold the Tiger lead over the Rebels.
Kessler’s first half would end with eight points, seven rebounds and five blocks, as the Tigers would carry a 43-31 advantage into the second half. The Rebels received a strong first half from Nysier Brooks with 10 points – his third double-digit first half this season. However, Ole Miss would lose Matthew Murrell after he scored seven first-half points, who took an elbow to the head with 2:10 left in the half.
To open the second half, the Rebels came out swinging with a 9-0 run over the opening 3:40, holding Auburn scoreless until the 15:42 mark of the half to cut the Tiger lead down to just three. Leading this charge was senior Jarkel Joiner, who would score 10 of his 13 total points on the night in the back half.
Despite this hot start to the second frame, foul trouble quickly became an issue for the Rebels, with the team’s two big men of Nysier Brooks and Sammy Hunter each tallying four fouls, requiring a smaller Rebel lineup to battle Auburn’s talented frontcourt of Kessler and Jabari Smith.
With Ole Miss not able to match Auburn’s size, the Tigers were able to regain a 10-point advantage on the Rebels, which they would control until the game’s final buzzer.
A total of three Rebels would end their nights as double-digit scorers for Ole Miss, as Jarkel Joiner led the way for the Rebels with 13 points on the night. Not far behind Joiner were Luis Rodriguez (12 points) and Nysier Brooks (11 points), with Brooks and Rodriguez grabbing seven and six rebounds on the night as well, respectively.
The Rebels will now return home for a rematch against Texas A&M (17-11, 6-9 SEC). The tipoff for the clash at SJB Pavilion is set for 2:30 p.m. CT on SEC Network.
Courtesy of Ole Miss Sports