Turnover-Plagued Tigers Struggle vs. Ole Miss

Auburn fans witnessed the school's worst ever homecourt loss to an Ole Miss basketbal team on Saturday.

Auburn, Ala.--It's difficult to determine which was worse. Auburn's offense was embarrassingly bad and the defense might have been even less effective as Ole Miss cruised to an 82-59 victory on Saturday at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

About the only positive for the Tigers was the game only counts as one loss, but considering the level of performance by the home team it might have deserved even more punishment in the SEC standings for the way it played.

Offensively, the Tigers stunk it up with 38.9 percent field goal shooting.

Defensively, they matched that poor performance by allowing the visitors to make 52.4 percent of their shots.

Offensively, the Tigers hit 6-19 three-pointers.

Defensively, Coach Jeff Lebo's team gave up lots of good three-point looks allowing the visitors to hit 12-22 treys.

Offensively, the Tigers turned the ball over 25 times, a total that is about as bad it gets in a college basketball game.

Defensively, Auburn didn't do anything worse than the turnover statistic, but special mention should be given to how many times the Tigers allowed the Ole Miss big men to take open shots at point blank range. Dwayne Curtis, the former Tiger, took advantage of that as he managed to hit 8-14 field goals to score 19 points for the Rebels.

Combine Auburn's poor play with Ole Miss bringing its "A" game on the road and the result was the second worst loss in Auburn history to the Rebels. The only more lopsided game came in 1974 at Oxford where the Tigers fell 93-65.

Auburn dropped to 4-5 in the SEC and 14-10 overall while Ole Miss improved to 15-8 overall and 4-5 in the conference as Auburn suffered its first back-to-back home losses by a 20-point margin since the 1990-91 season.

Lebo said, "I was worried about this game from the beginning. I talked about this game, after the South Carolina game in the locker room. We just didn't respond very well. We got whipped at every spot out there today."

Auburn's Frank Tolbert works against Kenny Williams of Ole Miss. Williams, who scored six points with seven rebounds, originally signed with the Tigers to play football.

Lebo was was particularly disappointed with allowing 31 points off turnovers while his team managed just 10 points on 17 Ole Miss turnovers.

"We had 14 turnovers the first half, 25 for the game," Lebo said. "I don't know how many we had dribbling off our foot or off our thigh or off our tough. Some uncharacteristic...Quantez (Robertson) with six turnovers. With 25 turnovers you are not going to win against anybody, let alone a good Ole Miss team. Ole Miss is good. They just whupped us from start to finish."

Ole Miss got 21 points from senior guard Clarence Sanders, 20 from senior guard Bayne Doyne and 14 from senior guard Todd Abernethy.

"I thought our guys certainly brought the right approach and without that approach we are in trouble," first year Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. "Auburn has been playing really well. It was one of those days.

"Jeff has done a tremendous job," Kennedy said. "We knew in order to come in here with the people they have beaten in this building we knew we were going to have to be aggressive. We said from day one we are never going to back our way into anything of significance, especially in this league this year. We had to come out with an aggressive approach.

"I thought our kids were aggressive right out of the gate and stepped up and made some timely shots early, which fortunately for us put them a little bit on their heels. As good teams do, they made a push back at us and much like our game against Mississippi State our kids responded every time."

The Tigers got into a hole early and never climbed out of it in the first half. The Rebels took a 9-1 lead at the 17:26 mark on a three by Abernethy at the 17:26 mark.

Josh Dollard jumps high over Dwayne Curtis, the former Auburn player. Dollard led the Tigers in scoring with 13 points.

It would get worse for the home team, which turned the ball over 14 times before halftime. The lead reached 14 points at the 11:10 mark on a three-pointer by Sanders to make the score 22-8.

The margin reached 16 at the 8:12 mark on a three-pointer by Doyle. Auburn cut the lead to 10 with 3:09 on a basket by Robertson, but that is as close as they could get in the first half. At intermission the Tigers trailed 43-31.

The second half opened with promise for the home team. Auburn cut the lead to 43-39 with 18:35 in the second half. However, the Rebels quickly got the lead back into double figures at 42-32 as the home team helped the Rebel cause with turnovers. Auburn stayed within striking range until the final minutes, but collapsed down the stretch and Ole Miss won going away.

"Coming into the game, Coach told us that once we got over this hump, we were either going to be tied or number one in the Western Division," said Sanders, who had friends and family over from Phenix City to cheer him on. Auburn and Ole Miss are actually tied for second place, a half game behind 4-4 Alabama.

"I loved playing in front of them because is the first time that half of them have seen me play live," he says.

The Tigers had four scorers in double figures led by 13 from Josh Dollard. Robertson scored 12 while Quan Prowell and Rasheem Barrett finished with 10 for the Tigers.

Both teams had 34 rebounds. Auburn hit 11-16 free throws while Ole Miss made 4-8.

Auburn's Robertson said the Tigers played their worst game of the season. "Offensive-wise, it was," he noted. "Defensive-wise, it was too because we weren't helping each other on defense, we weren't gang-rebounding the ball. We weren't being strong with the ball going to rim or not going to the rim. Basically, they came out and played a lot better than we did."

Auburn's Vot Barber struggled offensively. He hit just 1-5 shots and finished with a team-high nine rebounds.

The Tigers return to action on Wednesday night with a 7 p.m. CST game at Arkansas that will be televised regionally by Lincoln Financial Sports.

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