It was basically a battle of survival when Ole Miss and Auburn played in Oxford Wednesday night. In the end, it was the Rebels who survived.
Thanks to a career night by senior guard Justin Johnson and a stellar second-half performance by senior center Tommie Eddie, Ole Miss beat the Tigers 70-55 before 4,468 at C.M. "Tad" Smith Coliseum.
With three Southeastern Conference wins between them coming in, this one wasn't pretty to watch. But to Ole Miss head coach Rod Barnes it was just fine.
"We're really happy with the win. We needed one," said Barnes, whose team moved to 12-10 on the season and 3-6 in SEC action. "We got off to a good start tonight and that helped. We hadn't played well lately and our team may have lost some confidence. Tonight we played well at home and got a big win."
Auburn, which trailed by as many as 15 points (36-21) in the first half, made a run at the Rebels early in the second half. Ole Miss has had some sluggish starts to the second half of several games this conference season. With a 36-23 lead at halftime, the Rebels were unable to build on that advantage as the Tigers chipped away and cut it to 39-35 five minutes into the second half.
After Ole Miss built it back up to seven at 42-35 on a 3-point basket by Johnson, the Tigers came back to cut it to 44-41 on a layup by Daniel Hayles with 12:48 left.
But thanks in large part to the play of Eddie the rest of the way, Ole Miss went on a 19-6 run over the next eight minutes for a 63-47 lead. Eddie had three fouls in the first half with three points and a rebound, playing only seven minutes. In the second half he was a force, scoring 15 points for 18 total on the night with an additional five rebounds and two steals.
Barnes said going inside was part of the gameplan against the Tigers.
"I told Tommie, 'Big fella, when are you going to decide to take us home? We need your help.' He didn't answer me, and I was a little confused by that."
Eddie said he didn't need to say a word, because he was going to let his actions do the talking, which they obviously did.
But he said that was the way the whole team responded in the second half against Auburn.
"When coach said 'Let's go' I didn't say anything back to him," Eddie said. "I just went out on the floor and did it. We scratched and fought and did whatever it took to win this game."
Johnson, who had 19 points to lead the Rebels, going 7-of-11 from the floor including 5-of-7 from 3-point range, said he was feeling it early.
"We were going inside, so I was getting better looks," said Johnson, one point shy of his UM career high of 20. "You just have to shoot the ball with confidence. It feels good to have a good game, but it feels even better to win."
Auburn first-year head coach Jeff Lebo said his Tigers, who fell to 10-10 overall and 1-6 in the league, couldn't catch the Rebels when they had their chances.
"We just couldn't put the ball in the basket," said the former North Carolina player turned collegiate coach. "In the first half, we worried about their inside game and they hit their outside shots. In the second half we took better care of the outside, and they hurt us inside. We also knew we had to take care of the basketball and we didn't. Points off turnovers were the difference."
Ole Miss had 26 points off 20 Tiger turnovers to Auburn's 11 points off 13 UM turnovers.
Londrick Nolen had 13 points for the game, while freshman guard Brandon Patterson had 12, including three 3-pointers, rounding out a night which had four UM players scoring in double figures.
The Rebels shot 49 percent (26-53) for the game including 11-25 from 3-point range (44 percent). In the first half, Ole Miss was 9-18 from 3-point land for an impressive 50 percent.
The Tigers, led by 14 points from Toney Douglas, shot 40 percent (20-50).
Next up for Ole Miss is Arkansas at 4 p.m. Saturday in Oxford.
"We'll have to play better come Saturday," said Barnes. "They beat us the first time around (in Fayettevillle), and they'll come in here with confidence. We'll have to be at the top of our game."
Rebs top Auburn 70-55
OM Spirit Top Stories
Monday Ole Miss Recruiting RoundupOle Miss is set to host a pair of key official visitors this weekend. Who are they? We discuss that and much moire inside.
OM Spirit12:36 PM
Texas Hot 100 WR R.J. Sneed Talks StandoutsScout had the chance to catch up with Texas Hot 100 wide receiver R.J. Sneed following his team's big win on Saturday night. After the game Sneed talked about some of the schools…
Scout Football10:12 AM
Freeze Frames: ‘We’ve got to fight’Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze met the media Monday afternoon for his weekly press conference.
OM Spirit9:48 AM
No. 6 OLB Willie Gay Decommits from Ole MisScout 100 linebacker Willie Gay has backed off his pledge to the Ole Miss Rebels. Gay committed to Ole Miss back in June, but he is now back on the market...
Scout Football5:48 AM