Photography: Spruce Derden

Moody Blues: Auburn Can't Handle Ole Miss Senior Guard

Ole Miss took command in the second half and pulled away for a lopsided SEC hoops victory over the visiting Auburn Tigers.

Auburn's Patrick Keim (above) tries to defend Ole Miss star Stefan Moody (42) on Wednesday night.

Oxford, Miss.--Poor second half Auburn defense combined with good Ole Miss shooting after halftime allowed the Ole Miss Rebels to pull away for an 80-63 SEC basketball victory on Wednesday night at The Pavilion.

Stefan Moody, the SEC’s leading scorer who had been out with an injury, made an impressive return, scoring 24 points to lead the Rebels. The senior guard scored 19 points in the second half to help the Rebels snap a four-game losing streak.

Sophomore guard T.J. Lang led Auburn with a career-high 19 points, but his team was out-shot 45.0 percent to 37.2 from the field. Ole Miss made 10 three-pointers, including seven in the second half when it took command of the contest.

Auburn remains winless on the road in SEC play as its record drops to 9-10 overall and 3-5 in the league. Ole Miss improved its record to 13-7 overall and 3-5 in the conference.

“I though the first half we guarded really well,” noted Auburn Coach Bruce Pearl, who couldn’t say the same thing about the second half when the Rebels outscored the Tigers 51-33 while making 19-34 field goals and going plus-10 in the period for rebound margin.

“They are 10-2 when the out-rebound their opponent and we had a three-rebound margin in the first half,” Pearl said. “I?thought our lead should have, could have been even larger in the first half.”

Pearl noted that Moody, who missed Saturday’s game vs. Mississippi State with a hamstring injury, hurt the Tigers. “Moody was 1-6 in the first half and really not very effective, but in the second half he obviously took over the game,” the coach pointed out.

Auburn avoided the poor start it had in Saturday night’s road loss at Florida. Although the Rebels led for 11 of the first 20 minutes and built as much as a six-point margin at 25-19, the Tigers led 30-29 at the break after Bryce Brown made a long-three with three seconds left in the period.

Lang scored 11 of Auburn’s first half points as he hit 3-4 treys and probably would have had a fourth if Jordon Granger didn’t get called for offensive goal-tending. The Tigers managed to be ahead at the break despite no points from their leading scorer, Kareem Canty, who was 0-4 shooting, all from three-point range, but he did have six first-half assists.

Halftime Numbers: Auburn hit 11-29 (37.9 percent) field goals, 5-16 threes and 3-7 free throws while out-rebounding the Rebels 21-18. Ole Miss made 9-28 (32.1 percent) of its shots, was 3-16 on threes and 8-10 at the foul line. Auburn turned the ball over seven times in the half, two more than the home team.

Ole Miss scored four quick points to take the lead, prompting Pearl to call a timeout at the 18:53 mark. It helped temporarily as the Tigers regained the lead at 34-33, but an uncontested three-point shot by Rasheed Brooks at the 18:20 mark put the Rebels in front for good.

Another three-pointer at 10:47 to play by Moody built the lead to double-digits at 51-41 and the visiting Tigers were never able to make a run as the Rebels increased the margin to as many as 20 points with 7:03 to play.

Lang was the most effective player for the Tigers. He made 6-9 field goals and was 5-7 on three-pointers plus 2-2 at the foul line. “It was great to see T.J. Lang play well, shoot the ball and play with confidence.” Pearl said.

Senior forward Tyler Harris hit 4-9 field goals and was 8-15 at the foul line on a night he scored 16 points and pulled in eight rebounds.

Photography: Spruce Derden

Tyler Harris tries to score inside for the Tigers.

No other Auburn player scored in double figures. Starter Cinmeon Bowers, who finished with three points and four rebounds, watched almost the entire second half from the bench with the head coach unhappy with the senior play. Brown finished with six points as a starter at guard.

Canty, who was averaging 18.9 points per game, hit just 3-14 field goals and 2-9 threes on the way to scoring six points. Canty added nine assists with five turnovers and tied Harris for the team lead in rebounds with eight.

Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said he wasn’t sure how effective Moody would be coming back from the hamstring injury. “There was doubt. He had done zero physically until Monday. It was a very light Monday to see how his leg responded. Tuesday, let’s tax him a little bit to see how he responds. We hadn’t see him all day because he had class. We hadn’t seen him until shoot-around. At shoot-around, he said he felt pretty good. That’s when I felt like he was going to go.” 

The Rebels got a major boost from Marcanvis Hymon, a 6-7 sophomore forward, who came into the game averaging 5.4 points and 4.9 rebounds. He finished the night with 19 points and 10 rebounds.

“Huge, huge stats for us as it relates to our approach and our toughness," Kennedy said of his team's rebounding performance led by Hymon. "This team has to be tough. Everyone says that, but we don’t have that big body. We’re going to be outweighed in there,so we have to be mentally and physically tough and willing to throw our bodies into people. That’s never been an issue with (Hymon). He’s been willing to do that."

Photography: Spruce Derden

Auburn freshman center Horace Spencer fouled out with four points and three rebounds.

Worth Noting, Part 1:?Auburn was outscored 34-11 in bench points.

Worth Noting, Part 2: Ole Miss only turned the ball over eight times, five less than Auburn, and many of those turnovers were self-inflicted rather than the result of defensive play by the visitors.

Stat of the Game: Ole Miss out-performed the Tigers near the basket, outscoring Auburn 34-16 on points in the paint.

Up Next: Auburn will be one of the home teams for the SEC-Big 12 Challenge when the Tigers take on the Oklahoma State Cowboys on Saturday at 7 p.m. in Auburn.

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