Oxford, Miss.--Up by 20 points at halftime and by as many as 23 in the second half, the Auburn basketball Tigers gave up 63 second half points in a 90-84 SEC loss at Ole Miss.
It was the 10th straight setback to the Rebels, who also came from behind to beat Auburn earlier this season. Ole Miss improved to 15-10 overall and 6-6 in the SEC.
Auburn dropped to 16-9 overall and 5-7 in the conference.
Bruce Pearl was a very unhappy coach after the loss, saying, “This is the most disappointing loss of my career at Auburn--63 points in the second half...They scored 21 from the foul line in the second half. You just can’t win games like that.”
Pearl said, “Our second half defensive problems continue. We didn’t guard Ole Miss away from our bench. We turned the ball over way too much. We didn’t execute.”
Terrence Davis, a 6-4 sophomore guard, led the charge for the Rebels with 26 points, all in the second half, as he made 11-13 field goals.
Cullen Neal scored 20 points for the Rebels while Deandre Burnett added 18 points as he hit 10-10 free throws.
Ronnie Johnson led the Tigers in scoring with 18 points while Mustapha Heron added 16 points and Danjel Purifoy scored 12. Johnson dished out eight assists in a reserve role.
Turnovers were a major problem for the visitors, who had 20 of them, nine more than Ole Miss. Ole Miss outscored the Tigers 26-12 in points off of turnovers.
Free throws were also an issue for the Tigers. Ole Miss 27-31 while Auburn made 5-8.
Ole Miss held a 39-38 advantage in rebounds. Anfernee McLemore led the Tigers in rebounds with eight. “We only had eight defensive rebounds in the second half because we weren’t getting any stops,” Pearl said.
The Tigers got off to a poor start in the first half, but finished impressively, scoring the final 12 points of the period. Ole Miss jumped out to a quick 8-0 lead, but after that Auburn’s combination of good shooting and strong rebounding allowed the Tigers to take a 47-27 lead into the locker room at intermission.
Auburn caught the Rebels at the 10:28 mark on a basket by Austin Wiley.
The Tigers moved the advantage into double figures with a Bryce Brown three-pointer that made the score 32-21. The Tigers doubled the margin in the final minute of the half on a three-pointer by Johnson, who led the Tigers in first half scoring with 11 points.
Auburn hit 18-32 (56.3 percent) of its first half field goals, 8-14 threes and 3-4 free throws Ole Miss hit 9-34 (26.5 percent), 3-11 threes and 6-8 free throws.
The Tigers helped their cause in the first half with a 23-16 advantage in rebounds.
Ole Miss cut the lead under double digits on a three by Neal to make the score 60-53. Another three by Neal put the Rebels ahead for good at 70-69.
"Defensively is where it turned for us," Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. "Thankfully, we were able to cut the margin quickly. It wasn’t as if it was a slow bleed. We had the thing down to 10 under the 12-minute media (timeout). Guys had some faith that we could get this done. Thankfully, we did."
For the game the Tigers hit 33-69 field goals (47.8 percent) while Ole Miss made 29-66 (43.9 percent). Auburn hit 13-30 threes while Ole Miss made 5-20.
Worth Noting, Part 1: Auburn’s last win vs. Ole Miss came in double overtime on Jan. 14, 2012 in Auburn Arena. The Tigers’ last win in Oxford came in a 90-78 victory on Feb. 16, 2008.
Worth Noting, Part 2: Horace Spencer did not make the trip due to his shoulder injury. Another Tiger who plays the power forward position, T.J. Lang, missed the game while recovering from the flu.
Stat of the Game: Ole Miss made 20-32 second half field goals and 21-23 free throws in the second half.
Up Next: The Tigers will be at Auburn Arena on Tuesday for an 8 p.m tipoff vs. Florida.