"It feels real good to get that monkey off our backs," said freshman center Joey Cameron. "We've been fighting real hard all season to get a road win. We had a couple of games that were real close, but we just couldn't pull it out. To come to Ole Miss, a tough place to play, and get a win feels good."
Auburn was led in points by senior Ronny LeMelle with 19, none bigger than his two free throws with 7.4 seconds remaining to make it a two possession game a seal the win.
Cameron also had a solid game inside in the absence of Josh Dollard, who is suspended for a violation of team rules. Cameron had scored just two points in the last six games, but against the Rebels he scored 10 points and grabbed five rebounds in just nine minutes.
"Sometimes when you have some adversity it's a great opportunity for some other kids to step up and get a chance," said Auburn head coach Jeff Lebo. "In the first game without Josh, Daniel Hayles plays terrific and in this one, Cameron plays the best he's played all year, especially on the offensive end. Sometimes it helps your chemistry when you lose a guy."
Ole Miss' Dwayne Curtis, who played at Auburn during the 2003-2004 season and followed assistant coach Tracy Dildy to Oxford, was tough down low for the Rebels. He had 18 points and 10 rebounds, all on the offensive end.
Curtis gave Auburn problems for much of the game but couldn't score down the stretch as Ole Miss went more than six minutes without points.
The first half was considerably well played for two teams fighting to stay out of the cellar in the West. The game was tied at seven, nine and 11 before Londrick Nolen scored eight points in a two-minute span to give his team a 19-13 lead midway through the first half.
Hayles came off the bench for Auburn and hit a couple of deep threes to close the gap. However, the Ole Miss lead grew back to seven after a steal and dunk and two free throws from Curtis.
LeMelle then hit a pair of threes to cut it to one with a minute remaining in the half. Freshman Trey Hampton sank a free throw with 30 seconds left to play giving Auburn a chance to hold for the last shot, but LeMelle found his way to the bucket for easy points with 16 seconds left. While his lay-up tied the game at 33, it also gave the Rebels a chance to put the final points on the board to end the half.
Clarence Sanders missed a baseline runner, but Curtis was there for his sixth offensive rebound of the half and was able to lay it in. The Rebels were up 35-33 at that point.
"Our kids played hard," Lebo said. "Ole Miss played hard. We thought coming in it was a bad time to play them (after big road losses to Mississippi State and Kentucky). Most people were saying that you're getting them at a good time, but I knew Rod (coach Rod Barnes) would have them ready to play.
"Give our kids credit," Lebo said. "We were right where we needed to be at half. We were close, making shots offensively and getting good looks where we didn't turn the ball over early."
Curtis started the second half like he ended the first with a bucket to extend the lead to four. Auburn came back with hook shot from Barber and a coast-to-coast left handed lay-up by Tolbert to once again tie the game. Bam Doyne and LeMelle traded threes to make the score 40-40, and a pair of free throws by Curtis gave the Rebels a two-point advantage with 15:27 to play.
On Auburn's next possession, Tolbert nailed a long three to give the Tigers' their first lead of the game with 15:00 to play. They would hit only three shots from the field for the rest of the game, but the Rebels were ice cold shooting the ball as well, scoring just two points in the next five minutes.
Cameron hit a pair from the line with 10:34 to play to give Auburn its biggest lead at 50-44, but the Tigers matched the Rebels' offensive woes with only two points in the next five minutes as Curtis tied the game at 52-52.
Auburn had a difficult time denying the ball to Curtis on the low block, but did a great job of help defense from the weakside as Ole Miss would then go six minutes without points. Curtis was able to get the entry pass from the wing on several occasions but either had the ball stripped by the Auburn guards as he went to the basket had his shot blocked by Korvotney Barber or Tolbert.
"(Korvotney Barber) got his hands on some balls where Curtis had angles on him," Lebo noted. "He (Curtis) doesn't elevate. Frank had a couple of big blocks when they had the ball in around the basket."
Barber backed Curtis down for two points to put his team up 56-52 with 3:55 to play. That was all the points the Tigers needed as Ole Miss missed shot after shot down the stretch. Auburn had a chance to put the game away on free throws from Quantez Robertson or Barber, but they both missed the front end of a 1-1 with less than a minute remaining.
Todd Abernethy finally ended the drought for the Rebels with an uncontested lay-up with 8.2 seconds remaining, but LeMelle put the nail in the coffin with a pair of free throws to give Auburn the 58-54 victory.
The Tigers moved closer to .500 overall at 12-13 with two more regular season contests to play at Alabama and against South Carolina. Both Auburn and Ole Miss have a 4-10 league record. The loss dropped the Rebels to 14-13 overall.