Robinson had just two free throws in the first half, which saw USM take a 31-30 lead into the dressing room. After seeing his Tigers dominated in the paint in their last two games, Cliff Ellis started a big lineup against the Golden Eagles, with Kyle Davis getting his first start of the season, Marco Killingsworth at power forward, and Robinson at small forward. It worked beautifully, as Auburn outrebounded Southern Miss 40-25.
Davis pulled down a season-high 13 boards, while Killingsworth and Robinson added eight apiece.
The Tigers came out clicking on all cylinders, racing to a 17-5 lead with 11:24 to play. Highly-heralded freshman Dewayne Curtis made his collegiate debut at that point, but came out before he had a chance to touch the ball because Auburn turned the ball over four straight times without even getting into its offense.
The Golden Eagles fought back, using three-pointers to get back in the game, and taking the one-point halftime lead.
Behind Robinson, Auburn outscored USM 29-6 over the first ten and a half minutes of the second half to take its largest lead, 59-37. In addition to the debut of Curtis, who returned in the second half to score seven points and grab two rebounds, the Tigers got an outstanding performance off the bench from little-used Troy Gaines. Gaines poured in eleven points to be Auburn's third player in double figures in addition to Robinson's 20 and 16 from Killingsworth.
Ellis complimented the play off the bench, and said he was very pleased with the play of the front line. "We went big because we are going to have to in the SEC," Ellis said. "I was happy with the play of Brandon Robinson at small forward, and we did a great job on Charles Gaines." The Golden Eagle center came into the contest averaging 19 points and 11 rebounds per game, but was held to just eight and four, respectively, and was able to make only 2 of 10 field goal attempts.
Ellis also hinted that point guard Lewis Monroe, who has begun practicing, might get some playing time Friday against New Orleans. "We just have to dig deep until we get Lewis back," he said. "We'll just wait and see if he can go a few minutes against New Orleans. He can't cut right now, but maybe Friday or against Vandy."
USM (6-4) was led by senior wing Clement Carter's 21 points, including 6-9 three-pointers. David Haywood was the only other Golden Eagle in double figures with 14, including 4-6 threes. In fact, more than half of USM's field goals were three-pointers (11 of 21).
The win by the Tigers prevented them from losing a third consecutive non-conference game for the first time in 14 years, and should help make the New Year a little bit happier.
Auburn (8-2) is back in action Friday night at the coliseum before beginning SEC play at Nashville next Wednesday. Friday's game is once again an opportunity for youngsters to see the Tigers, as an adult admission will also get anyone 17 or under in with them.