By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
AUBURN, Ala. – As free throw after free throw missed the mark, it looked very much like Ole Miss would miss its shot at history.
But Marshall Henderson’s two free throws with 6.4 seconds remaining were the difference in a 63-61 win at Auburn, and the No. 23-ranked Rebels improved to 6-0 in SEC play for the first time.
Henderson was 4 for 13 from 3-point range, doing most of his long-range damage in the first half, and finished with 15 points.
It was sophomore LaDarius White, the Rebels’ No. 7 scorer statistically, who hit big shot after big shot and led Ole Miss with 17 points, a season-high.
The Rebels (17-2, 6-0 SEC) are back home Tuesday night against Kentucky and travel to No. 8 Florida, the SEC’s other unbeaten team, on Saturday.
White was 7 for 9 from the floor but couldn’t knock down a go-ahead shot with under a minute to play.
Auburn set up for the winning shot, but Chris Denson’s drive to the basket was blocked by Murphy Holloway. White got the rebound and threw ahead to Reggie Buckner streaking down the floor.
“I had to react. We didn’t come to Auburn to lose. My reaction was to hurry up and get him the ball, score and get this game over with,” White said.
Buckner’s dunk attempt was blocked, but the ball went out to Ole Miss.
“I don’t know if there was contact or not, but the way we shoot free throws it may have been a blessing that he he didn’t go to the foul line,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said.
free throw woes
Ole Miss went into the game as the seventh-best free throw shooting team in the SEC at 69 percent.
The Rebels have shot 74 percent or better seven times this season but were just 2 for 15 when Henderson stepped to the line.
After Buckner’s ball went out of bounds, Auburn’s Shaquille Johnson fouled Henderson before a second could run off the clock.
An 87.2 percent free throw shooter, Henderson had missed one of his two previous attempts.
He hit both shots with the game on the line.
“You just get stuck, you start missing, and they all miss,” Henderson said. “It happens, but we found a way to win.”
The way to win was with defense. In spite of game-long foul trouble for Buckner, Ole Miss held Auburn to 28 percent shooting in the second half.
In a game of wild swings in the first half, Auburn (8-11, 2-4) had success scoring off dribble penetration. It’s big man, center Rob Chubb, was not a factor, but it’s guard were getting good looks inside. Auburn outscored Ole Miss 16-10 in the paint in the first half. The Rebels turned the table in the second half, outscoring the Tigers 16-8. Auburn led 33-31 at the break.
Buckner and Holloway each had two blocked shots. While Buckner was at times mindful of his four fouls, Kennedy said his presence affected Auburn’s shots.
“It was all off dribble-penetration at the end of the shot clock when we were kind of strung out,” Kennedy said. “They made some hard finishes over the top.”