The journey lasted through two losses, two home games and two overtimes before the Tigers outlasted Ole Miss 69-68.
Frankie Sullivan led the Tigers with 19 points and pulled in a rebound at the end of the second overtime to ice the victory for the Tigers, who ended a three-game losing streak while improving to 11-6 overall and 1-2 in the Southeastern Conference.
Sullivan, who has been struggling this season, did his damage off the bench. At halftime, in nine minutes of action, he didn't have a point or a rebound, but he played 24 minutes the rest of the game and finished with 19 points, four steals, four assists, three rebounds and just one turnover.
"There is nobody who deserves to play well more than Frankie Sullivan," Barbee said of the junior guard, who has been struggling to regain his quickness after having knee surgery.
"It is good to see, isn't it," the coach added. "That is what we have been looking for. Hopefully, he is getting close because we have a lot of guys who have been struggling. There is no one on this team who has been working harder to get out of that than Frankie."
With Auburn leading by a point and Ole Miss having the basketball with time to run a play for the final shot, Sullivan came away with the rebound as he outbattled Murphy Holloway of Ole Miss and teammates Kenny Gabriel and Adrian Forbes for the basketball.
Sullivan said the key to making it happen was blocking Holloway off the boards, a player a half foot taller who finished the game with 11 rebounds and 11 points. "That was a game we really needed to win," Sullivan said.
A loss would have been tough to handle for the Tigers, who led by 12 points with 12 minutes and 12 seconds left in regulation time. The lead was still in double figures at 51-41 with 4:36 left after a short shot by Rob Chubb, who fouled out in the second overtime period.
Ole Miss guard Jarvis Summer led a late charge by the Rebels. He had just two points at halftime, but added 20 more points after that as he nailed four three-pointers.
Auburn had a good chance to close out the Rebs in regulation, but Varez Ward left the door cracked by missing the back end of a one-and-one with 22 seconds left. Then, with 17 seconds left, Nick Williams drilled a three-pointer from the corner to tie the game at 57-57.
Varez Ward's shot at the end of regulation time was off target.
The Tigers had time to answer and win the game in regulation, but Ward's off-balance runner from the baseline was no good, forcing overtime one.
Ward had chance to put the Tigers ahead at the end of the first overtime, too, but missed a layup with 29 seconds and the score tied at 65-65. Auburn got the ball back on a traveling call on the rebound, but failed to get a shot off sending the game into double overtime.
Sullivan put Auburn ahead for good with a pair of free throws with 4:11 to play. The lead grew to three points with 2:54 left as Chris Denson, who scored 16 points, made two foul shots.
Neither team scored again until 34 seconds remained as Reginald Buckner dunked after getting a lob pass from Summers.
Facing full-court Ole Miss pressure, Denson was passing the ball ahead for a breakaway shot, but lost the basketball to a double-team. The sophomore said his arm was grabbed on the play, but the officiating crew didn't agree or didn't see it.
That gave the Rebels the basketball with a chance to win. After Ole Miss called a timeout with 11.6 seconds left to set a final play, Sullivan came away with a missed shot by Summers after a scramble under the Ole Miss basket with a tenth of a second remaining.
"We had a six-footer and our two best rebounders with their hands on the ball," Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said of the closing seconds. "If you would have told me going in I would have said, ‘Alright, let's break it down.'"
Sullivan, who played 33 minutes, said he was headed for the cold tub to give his knee treatment. That was a lot of minutes for a sub, but well behind the team leader on Saturday, senior forward Gabriel, who played 48 minutes, which he said was a personal all-time high. Gabriel led the Tigers in rebounds with 13 and added 11 points and four blocked shots.
Neither team shot well in a game that featured good intensity on defense. Auburn hit 22-58 field goals (37.9 percent) while the Rebels made 26-72 shots for 36.1 percent. Auburn was 7-18 on threes and Ole Miss hit 7-28. At the foul line Auburn made 18-28 shots while Ole Miss was 9-15.
Both teams started slowly on offense. At the 12:33 mark the score was tied at 8-8 on a layup by Ward.
Sophomore guard Chris Denson shoots for the Tigers.
A three-pointer from Josh Wallace with 10:29 on the clock put the Tigers up 11-8 and Auburn led the rest of the first half, building the lead to nine on a three-pointer by Gabriel with 2:36 left in the half.
Ole Miss outscored the Tigers 6-2 the rest of the period to trail 25-20 at halftime.
Ole Miss then cut the lead to two points before the Tigers responded and built advantage into double figures at 35-25 with 14:22 to play on a long-range three-pointer by Sullivan. However, turnovers and rebounding problems allowed the Rebels to get 34 shots in the second half, twice as many as the Tigers, and that is how Ole Miss had a chance to win.
Barbee said his team got its "tails kicked" on the backboards, but said he liked the intensity. "You still have to find a way to tough it out and still win by doing it together, and that is what we did."
Starters: Chris Denson, Adrian Forbes, Rob Chubb, Kenny Gabriel and Varez Ward opened the game for the Tigers.
Real, Real Early Foul Trouble: Chubb picked up two fouls in the first minute of the game. He returned to action with 4:51 left in the first half and scored two points on a pair of free throws while managing to avoid a third foul. For the game he played 24 minutes and scored eight points, but did not get a rebound.
Halfway There: The Tigers led 25-20 at intermission despite making just 9-31 field goals (29.0 percent) from the field. The Tigers were much better on their three-point tries, making 4-7 in the first 20 minutes. They were 3-5 at the foul line. Auburn had five turnovers at the break while the Rebels had 12.
Ole Miss hit 9-28 first half field goals for 32.1 percent and was just 1-9 on threes and 1-4 at the foul line. Ole Miss held a 26-17 rebounding lead at the break.
Beach Baller: Adrian Forbes, who opened the game at power forward and finished it at center, played 28 minutes and did a strong job defensively against the strength of the Ole Miss team, its physical front line. The senior from Jamaica didn't score, but was a major factor in the victory with his defense and seven rebounds.
"He did a lot of great things," Barbee said. "He is limited and he knows it and accepts it as a basketball player. He also knows what he can do for this team. As he has gotten healthier, he has become more of a factor for us.
"In this league we are going to have to play bigger like we did against Kentucky, and like we did today," Barbee added. "They have a great front line and he did a good job of holding it down when Rob Chubb fouled out."
Home Crowd: Barbee went to the student section after the game and thanked them for their strong support for 50 minutes of basket as a crowd of 7,154 watched the action.
Double Overtime: The last time the Tigers won a double overtime game was in 1991, a 59-58 decision at Georgia.
Up Next: The Tigers hit the road for a 6 p.m. contest on Tuesday at LSU. The game will be televised by ESPNU.