A Bittersweet Night For Auburn Junior

Auburn, Ala.--Center Kyle Davis put on an impressive performance during his record-breaking night to help lead the Auburn Tigers to a 77-71 SEC basketball victory over Ole Miss on Wednesday at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

Although Davis blocked five shots to set the school career record in that statistic with 244 in three seasons, it was a bittersweet evening for the six-foot-ten junior from Blakely, Ga. With his mother in critical condition in a hospital in south Georgia suffering from breast cancer, Davis had planned to miss Wednesday night's game to stay with his her. Cradell Davis, who was a basketball player of some renown herself as a high school star, told her son he needed to return to Auburn.

"The one thing she said before I left home was ‘go up there and play this game for me.' That was the hardest thing for her to tell me because I wanted to be there with her. I was just obeying her wishes and I know she would be proud of me."

Davis provided his second double-double of the season with 14 points and a game-leading 10 rebounds in the physical game vs. the Rebels. "I know she would be proud of me for having the game I had."

Davis broke the old blocked shots record that was set by Mamadou N'diaye. That was an important part of Auburn's victory, but his all-around play was impressive. He says that is something he has been working on in practice. It also helped that he had extra motivation on Wednesday night.

"I just kept my mother in my mind the whole game," Davis said. "She is my backbone now. Everytime I step out on the court every point that I score is for her, every block that I get is for her, every rebound that I get is for her. Then my father, he was out there at the game and he would always be with mom every morning praying with her and stuff like that. Just seeing him out there gave me the extra boost to go out there and play offense and play better on the defensive end."

Lewis Monroe

Auburn got strong performances from several other players. Point guard Lewis Monroe scored 16 points as he drilled four of five shots, including all three of his treys. He was five of six at the foul line and added four assists with three turnovers against constant hacking and hand-checking of the Rebel defense.

Senior forward Marquis Daniels scored 20 points and added three steals and two assists for the Tigers, who had just 11 turnovers, one less than the Rebels. Auburn outrebounded the visitors 37-35 and outshot Ole Miss 44.0 percent to 41.1. However, there was a big difference on three-point percentage as Auburn made seven of 10 while Ole Miss hit 5-19.

Lewis Monroe scored a career-high 16 points for the Tigers.

Neither team could pull away in the first half, which ended with Ole Miss on top 36-35. Monroe kept the Tigers close with 13 points as he was perfect on four field goals and two free throws.

The Rebels built a 43-38 lead at the 18:06 mark and Auburn couldn't catch Ole Miss until Marquis Daniels nailed a jumper to put AU ahead 50-49 at the 12:18 mark. Auburn never trailed the rest of the way, but did keep it interesting by going cold from the line down the stretch after shooting free throws extremely well most of the game.

The Tigers looked to be in good shape with a 70-63 lead with 2:24 left and Marco Killingsworth at the foul line after being fouled on a fast break set up by the record-setting blocked shot by Davis. However, the normally good shooter missed both free throws. With Ole Miss fouling intentionally, Auburn needed to win the game at the line and with defense. The defense held up well enough, but the free throws were shaky.

Nathan Watson was one of two on back-to-back trips to the foul line and even the hottest man on the floor, Monroe, could make just one of two. Daniels, the leading scorer, got into the act with two missed foul shots with 21.5 seconds left and the Tigers protecting a 73-69 lead. However, senior guard Derrick Bird pulled down the rebound on the second miss and calmly knocked in a pair of free throws to help preserve a 77-71 victory.

Ellis said that the Tigers "nailed their free throws up until the stretch" to help take the lead, but added, "We kind of opened the door for Ole Miss. Fortunately, our defense closed it."

Auburn allowed the Rebels to make just nine of 28 field goals in the second half, including one of nine from three-point range.

"Both teams just played hard and played tough," said Auburn coach Cliff Ellis who noted the SEC offers a test every outing. "It is just battle royals every night. That is all you can say. I am proud of our team. I am proud of the 6,800 who were there--with us on top of the SEC West it ought to be full. That is my only disappointment in this game."

Watson scored 11 points for Auburn, which returns to action at 3 p.m. on Saturday vs. visiting LSU.

Ole Miss was led by 16 points from forward Aaron Harper, who made 6-14 field goals. Emmanuel Wade added 14 points while Justin Reed, Derrick Allen and Chris Rhodes each scored 10.

"It was a much-needed win if we wanted to keep our progression as a team," Davis said.

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