Tigers Lose Big Lead, Fall To Rebels

Auburn (8-5, 0-2) couldn't make a 20-point first half lead hold up on the road as the Ole Miss Rebels (12-3, 1-1) defeated the Tigers 69-65 Wednesday night in Oxford, Miss.

Looking to get off to a good start in their first road conference game of the season, Cliff Ellis's Tigers bombarded the Rebels for the first 10 minutes of the game and were able to build a sizeable lead. Led by the hot shooting of Derrick Bird who scored 7 of Auburn's first 14 points, the Tigers leaped out to a huge 14-point lead. Things got even better when Lincoln Glass came out of a time out with back-to-back three pointers and Auburn had a 27-7 lead and appeared on their way to an easy road win.

But, the Rebels wouldn't surrender. In a span of just five minutes Ole Miss outscored Auburn 14-0 and quickly cut the lead to just six. Brandon Robinson did his part at keeping the Tigers in front as he tipped in his own miss to build the lead back to eight at 29-21, scoring the first Auburn points in nearly five minutes. Robinson gave Auburn their last double-digit lead of the game on the next trip down the court as he caught a lob from Mack McGadney and slammed it home for the 31-21 lead. The two teams would trade baskets down the stretch before a late Derrick Allen basket made the score 35-28 Auburn at the half.

Building on their momentum coming out of the first half Ole Miss continued to work their way back into the game behind the play of Justin Reed. The game's leading scorer with 21 points, Reed scored two straight baskets early in the second stanza that cut the Auburn lead to just two at 37-35, closer than Ole Miss had been since the opening tip-off. Auburn was able to withstand the Rebel run and keep a lead for much of the second half with Marco Killingsworth doing good work in the paint in the absence of Kyle Davis. Things looked good for the Tigers when, leading 51-47, Reed left the game with his fourth foul. But Auburn was unable to capitalize on his absence as little Jason Harrison hit a three-pointer to cut the Auburn lead to two just seconds later. Two Harrinson free throws added after Robinson hit just one of two at the line gave the Rebels their first lead of the game almost 35 minutes into action at 54-53. Auburn would never have the lead again as Ole Miss made their free throws down the stretch and even when they didn't it was bad news for the Tigers.

One sequence of plays late in the game summed up the entire 40 minutes and seemingly the last two Auburn seasons in a nutshell. Leading by one, the Tigers sent Reed to the free throw line with a chance to give the Rebels the lead once again. After making the first, he missed the second only to see a teammate grab the rebound and kick it to Aaron Harper on the wing for an open three-pointer. The sharp-shooting Harper drained the three and Ole Miss suddenly was up 60-57. Following an Auburn turnover, Reed scored on the interior to give the Rebels a five point lead and they would never look back on the way to the 69-65 final.

Auburn was led in scoring by Bird who finished with 17 points on 5-of-11 shooting from the field. Killingworth added 11 points while Robinson chipped in with 10. Marquis Daniels had an unusually quiet night offensively with just 9 points but did add 9 assists and 8 rebounds while Adam Harrington struggled making just 2-of-9 shots for the floor for 7 points. In addition to Reed, the Rebels had three other players in double figures as Harrinson scored 14 points, Allen 13 and Harper 10.

Once again free throw shooting and rebounding hurt the Tigers as they made just 10-of-16 from the line and only 5-of-10 in the second half. Compare that with Ole Miss making 20-24 and you have the difference in the game. On the boards the Rebels held a 38-31 advantage with Harper pulling down 10 boards from his wing position.

The Tigers have no time to rest as they travel home to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide in a crucial SEC Western Division showdown. Already 0-2 in the West, with one of the losses coming at home, the Tigers can ill-afford another home loss within the division. Tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m. and can be seen live on Fox Sports Net.

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