By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Ole Miss was going nowhere, and getting there quickly, when Murphy Holloway stepped on the gas.
Holloway scored 12 straight Ole Miss points in a 14-0 run to help the Rebels rally to beat Auburn 61-54 before a Tad Smith Coliseum crowd of 5,967 Saturday night.
Ahead 39-28 with 15 minutes, 29 seconds left, the Tigers looked like they would become the day’s third SEC team with a sub-.500 conference record to win on the road.
Holloway, though, sparked the Rebels by putting back his own miss on successive possessions to start the run.
He finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds, his eighth double-double of the season. Five of his rebounds came on the offensive end, and Ole Miss outscored Auburn 32-24 in the paint, 16-11 in second-chance points.
The Rebels (15-9, 5-5 SEC) have an RPI opportunity game coming Thursday night at home against Vanderbilt.
Ole Miss struggled much of the first half against the zone of Auburn (13-12, 3-8).
With Terrance Henry on the bench in foul trouble and generally unproductive when he was in the game, Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy called on Holloway to make a difference.
“He just said, ‘Guys follow you. Lead by example. I guarantee they’ll follow.’ That’s what I did,” Holloway said. “Everybody was sitting there waiting for somebody. I took ownership and tried to lead the team.”
Holloway’s 20 points matched a season-high.
“We were tentative and not driving the ball. We would pass it around the perimeter and miss an open shot,” Kennedy said. “Terrance was non-existent. We had to have other guys step up, and we did.”
Among those guys was Nick Williams, held scoreless last Thursday against Mississippi State, who drilled a 3-pointer with 5 minutes left to give the Rebels a four-point cushion.
The game was tied at 51 with 2:06 left when point guard Jarvis Summers got a steal from Auburn’s Kenny Gabriel and a transition bucket, and his two free throws with 47 seconds left help off-set a Gabriel 3-pointer for a 57-54 Ole Miss lead.
On Auburn’s last best chance Reggie Buckner blocked a drive by Frankie Sullivan to set up a Williams score in transition going the other way.
“Things didn’t go our way at the end of the game,” Auburn coach Tony Barbee said. “It comes down to getting defensive stops and executing. They did a better job of that than we did.”
Summers finished with 13 for Ole Miss, Williams 11.
The Rebels forced nine of Auburn’s 16 turnovers in the second and gave it away 13 times to finish with plus-3 in turnover margin. They went into the game averaging minus-1.8 in turnover margin.
The defense and the transition baskets led to a 53.8 shooting percentage in the final 20 minutes.
“We defended much better in the second half,” Kennedy said. “Their turnovers led to some opportunities in the open floor. Every team needs easier basket opportunities, and we created that with our defense in the second half.”