No wiggle room for Rebels

By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal

There won’t be a lot of SEC wins to look back on for Auburn in its first season under Tony Barbee.
As the losses have mounted, however, no team has taken the Tigers to the woodshed like Ole Miss did two weeks ago.
How that memory impacts both teams could help determine whether the Rebels remain in the chase for a second-place finish in the Western Division.
Ole Miss takes on Auburn tonight at 7 at the Tigers’ new Auburn Arena. The SEC Network TV game will be aired on WCBI’s “My Mississippi,” Channel 3 on Tupelo’s Comcast Cable.
The Rebels (18-11, 6-8 SEC) will earn the No. 2 seed if it wins against Auburn and at home Saturday against Arkansas and if Mississippi State loses its final two games.
“We have zero room for complacency,” Kennedy said.
There could be some danger for that considering the ease with which the Rebels dispatched Auburn (9-19, 2-12 SEC) on Feb. 16 winning 90-59.
Auburn has lost 11 other SEC games by an average of 10 points.
“Our next two games are very winnable,” said senior guard Zach Graham, recalling a 69-60 win at Arkansas on Feb. 5.
It was the Auburn game, though, that really had that “do no wrong” feel for the Rebels. Graham had a career-high 30 points on 7-for-11 3-point shooting. Ole Miss shot 56.8 percent from the floor, 52 percent from 3-point range and connected on 27 of 32 free throws. The Rebels were plus-seven in rebound margin, and four other players joined Graham in double figures.
“I think it was just one of those nights. All players have those nights. We needed someone else to step up and make big shots,” Graham said.
Auburn has lost four straight since rallying from a 19-point second-half deficit to beat MSU 65-62 at Auburn on Feb. 12. The last two – at Alabama and at home against Arkansas – have been by a combined four points.
The Tigers average 8.3 steals and have a plus-1.5 turnover margin, second in the league in both categories.
Auburn is led by sophomore guard Earnest Ross with 13.3 points and 6.6 rebounds a game. Ross was held to seven points and two rebounds in the first meeting.
“For the first 10 minutes it was 15-13, but over the next 10, they found their zone and went on a huge run,” Barbee said. “They’re a difficult team for us to match up with, because they are so explosive on offense. That’s been our biggest weakness all year, our lack of explosive offense.”
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600 or parrish.alford@journalinc.com.