Hoping to keep a winning streak alive, Ole Miss, 16-7 (6-4), travels down to the plains of Auburn, Alabama, to square off with the Auburn Tigers, 16-7 (5-5), in the second meeting between the two teams.
The Rebels seem to have righted the ship after a rocky midseason slump during which they lost five out of six games. Ole Miss bounced back by knocking off two mediocre teams in Texas A&M and Georgia. The Rebels ended the week thumping the Bulldogs on the road by 16 points.
The Rebels and Tigers squared off Jan. 9 in Oxford where Ole Miss raised some eyebrows by taking down the then No. 10 Auburn Tigers 82-67.
In the first matchup, Ole Miss suffocated Auburn defensively, forcing the Tigers into 16 turnovers while also holding them to just 32.8 percent shooting. The battle on the boards proved critical in the win, with Ole Miss cleaning the glass and out-rebounding the Tigers 45-37.
Terence Davis drove the bus for the Rebels with game-highs in both points and rebounds, with 27 and 12, respectively. KJ Buffen also had a big night, dropping a career-high of 16 points off the bench, while Dominik Olejniczak scored 11 points and snagged seven rebounds.
While the Rebels may have won the first battle, the team knows that, with the season winding down, it is important to take it day by day.
“Everybody just has to be on the same day,” Breein Tyree said. “Right now, the whole team should be on today’s practice and what we need to do today, and everything else will take care of itself.”
Tyree struggled in the first game against Auburn, scoring five points on just 1-of-10 shooting. Tyree has been hot of late and is coming off of a career-high performance after scoring 31 points against Georgia last weekend.
Bruce Pearl’s Tigers currently rank No. 12 in the country in scoring, averaging 83.6 PPG behind two outstanding guards, Jared Harper and Bryce Brown. Brown sits at fourth in the SEC, scoring at a clip of 16.7 PPG, and threatens to shoot anywhere on the floor after crossing half-court.
Auburn’s point guard, Jared Harper, is in the running for a place on the first team All-SEC, averaging 15.6 PPG. Harper also takes pride in setting the table for the Tigers, dishing out 6.3 assists per game — good for second in the SEC.
Both Brown and Harper are threats to shoot from anywhere after crossing half-court. In fact, the tandem claim two out of the top five spots in three-point shooting percentage, hovering around 40 percent.
With eight games left on the schedule, Ole Miss still has time to bolster its impressive resume before Selection Sunday on March 17. College hoops analyst Joe Lunardi has Ole Miss as an 8-seed in the latest installment of his famed bracketology.
While it is important to keep their eyes on the task at hand, Tyree and the Rebels are beginning to see March Madness in the distance.
“We have been talking about the postseason all year,” Tyree said. “I have been aware of it my whole college career especially just this year because it’s right there and we can actually do it this year.”
No one on the current Rebel squad has ever made the NCAA tournament’s field of 68, and Kermit Davis knows that there is an added sense of importance to each game with March drawing near.
“The guys who matter on our team are very alert about it, and I think it makes them feel good that they are in these kind of games,” Kermit Davis said. “The beauty about this league is there are so many opportunities.”
Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in Auburn Arena and can be seen on SEC Network.