By Chris Burrows
When you’re struggling at 0-5 in the SEC, it’s not a good time to host a 15-3 entry that’s on a hot streak. But that’s exactly what Ole Miss is faced with at 7 p.m. in Tad Smith Coliseum.
The Auburn Tigers (15-3, 3-2), in the words of Ole Miss head coach Rob Evans, “are playing as well as anybody in the SEC right now. They’re a veteran team and you can’t overestimate the value of experience in this league.”
Four of the Tigers average in double figures, including returning starters Lance Weems (15.1), Pat Burke (11.0), Franklin Williams (11.7) and Wes Flanagan (14.0). Weems is the SEC’s top 3-point shooter in production (10 per game), while Burke is among the league leaders in rebounding (8.8).
“But it’s Flanagan that makes them go,” Evans said. “He brings a lot to the table. I’ve watched him closely and I don’t think there’s a better point guard in this league.
“You also have to judge a point guard on his ability to get his team into the flow of the game and handling pressure. They’re 15-3, so Flanagan is getting it done.”
Getting it done has been a problem for the Rebels (5-8, 0-4). Evans has seen his team get to the brink of victory, only to fail in execution in the final minutes. Of the team’s five SEC losses, three have been decided by six or fewer points.
“Ole Miss isn’t an 0-5 team in the SEC,” Auburn head coach Cliff Ellis said. “From what I’ve seen, I don’t think anybody plays any harder than they do. Rob prepares them well. I think their freshman class of players is really good. But it’s tough in this league with young guys.”
In the club’s last outing, a loss to Florida, Ole Miss used 10 players. Nine were underclassmen and seven were either sophomores or juniors. Freshman Keith Carter leads the club in scoring and rebounding with averages of 15.6 and 6.2, respectively.