T.J. Dunans (above) played 21 minutes for the Tigers on Saturday vs. Ole Miss.
Auburn, Ala.--The return of T.J. Dunans was spoiled by poor shooting, too many turnovers for the home team and an injury to Tyler Harris as visiting Ole Miss defeated the Auburn Tigers 69-59 in an SEC basketball game on Saturday evening.
The Tigers hit just 18-54 field goals (33.3 percent) and were 6-24 on threes and 17-28 free throws. Ole Miss didn’t set the nets on fire, but made 26-61 field goals (42.6 percent) while hitting 9-21 behind the three-point line. The Rebels struggled at the foul line, making just 8-17.
Harris, who was having a strong performance for the Tigers, suffered a concussion the second half and left the game after scoring a team-high 13 points while adding seven rebounds, three steals and two assists.
Coach Bruce Pearl said that Harris,a 6-10 senior forward, will be undergoing a concussion protocol so it is too early to know when he will be cleared to play again. “The next 24 hours are very important on whether it is something that is going to keep him out a while or if it is something he can bounce back from,” Pearl said. “We will just have to wait and see what Monday brings.”
Cinmeon Bowers posted his 12th double-double of the season and 26th the past two seasons with 18 rebounds and 11 points, but turned the ball over six times as an Ole Miss three-quarters court trap caused the Tigers problems.
Dunans, who has been out since injuring his knee on Dec. 23rd, came off the bench to score seven points while adding two rebounds, two blocks and two assists while turning the ball over four times in 21 minutes.
“I felt good,” Dunans said. “I am not there (full speed) yet, but it is getting there.”
The junior said he found out the night before the game he was going to play vs. the Rebels. “They asked me if I could play and I told them I could,” said Dunans, who noted the knee injury suffered vs. Harvard was the first time he has been seriously injured. “I felt if I could play I might as well play,” added Dunans, who had the potential to be a medical hardship redshirt if the Tigers had held him out the rest of the season. However, it wasn’t certain that he would receive the hardship because of the time frame with his injury in game 10.
Ole Miss got 23 points from point guard Stefan Moody, who added five assists. Marcanvis Hymon scored 12 points while Tomasz Gielo added 11 points.
The Tigers scored the first seven points, which proved to be their largest lead of the first half in which the visitors led for almost eight and a half minutes, including a 40-33 advantage at the break.
Halftime Notes: Auburn hit 10-26 field goals (38.5 percent), 4-14 threes and 9-17 free throws while Ole Miss made 14-34 field goals (41.2 percent), 6-13 threes and 6-11 free throws. The Tigers held a 28-17 rebounding margin, but that was negated by 11 turnovers while the visitors finished the half with just two. Moody was the big scorer in the half with 19 points while Harris led auburn with 13 points.
Ole Miss kept the lead the rest of the game. Auburn cut the margin to four points at the 14:39 mark on a layup by Dunans to make the score 46-42. However, the Rebels went on a 9-0 run to regain control. Auburn cut the lead to five points with 6:31 to play on a dunk by Jordon Granger, who scored nine points, but the Tigers could not get any closer.
Auburn hurt its cause with 16 turnovers, twice as many as Ole Miss.
“I was really disappointed in that loss,” Pearl said. “I was not disappointed in the effort. I was really disappointed in the execution. When you are going against a team that changes defenses like Ole Miss does you have to go from breaking pressure in attack mode to getting yourself organized and getting into some structure, and we didn’t as a team. That is my responsibility as a coach to go from attack pressure into an offense.
“The other thing that was disappointing when we got into bonus in the second half we didn’t have enough guys beyond Cinmeon--because Tyler was out--we could get to the foul line with. We should have and could have gotten to the line a lot in the second half. Bryce Brown and T.J. Lang, who are both great shooters, have got to be able to add that dimension to their game.”
Worth Noting, Part 1: Pearl said that he didn’t know until Friday that Dunans would play vs. Ole Miss. A positive medical report on a checkup on Thursday cleared the junior to go full speed in practice and in games.
“He has been working out individually with Frankie Sullivan and assistants individually, one-on-one,” Pearl said. “I knew he was making progress...After practice (Friday) he told me he could play. It kind of snuck up on us so we weren’t really able to get him involved in the game plan. You could see some rust, but it won’t take us long to get him going again.”
Dunans played point guard vs. Ole Miss, which Pearl said isn’t his best position, but the Tigers need help at that spot. “We will have to evaluate that as a staff,” he said on what position Dunans will play in future games.
Cinmeon Bowers takes a shot on Saturday vs. the Rebels.
Bowers predicted Dunans will round back into game shape rather quickly. “It was great to have T.J. back tonight," Bowers said. "He played good minutes for us. I think he’ll have a better game Wednesday. He should be used to the feeling and we’re going to practice hard Monday. We’ll be alright.”
Worth Noting, Part 2: Five-star class of 2017 Auburn commitment, Austin Wiley from Spain Park High in Birmingham, attended the game.
Stat of the Game: The Ole Miss bench outscored Auburn’s bench 24-16.
Up Next: The Tigers will play Georgia on Wednesday night at Auburn Arena.