AUBURN, Ala. (OLE MISS ATHLETICS) – Ole Miss men’s basketball completed the regular season sweep of Auburn Wednesday night behind a dominant defensive effort at Auburn Arena. The Rebels (17-7, 7-4 SEC) held the Tigers to a season low field goal percentage (32.7 percent) and limited them to 24 points in the first half, the Tigers’ lowest output in a half this season.
The Rebels were led by stellar guard play led by Breein Tyree and Devontae Shuler. Tyree scored 20 points for the sixth straight game behind four three-pointers. Devontae Shuler added 17 of his own with a career-high five three-pointers, four coming when the shot clock was expiring. Terence Davis added eight points on 3 of 3 shooting, all in the second half.
Ole Miss got production off the bench with Blake Hinson out. Zach Naylor scored a career-high tying five points, playing crucial minutes in the second half. The Rebels shot 39 percent from the three-point line, making a season-high 13 three-pointers, the eighth-most in school history; the 33 attempts were the fifth-most in school history.
Auburn (16-8, 5-6 SEC) was led by Chuma Okeke who had 23 points and 11 rebounds. Jared Harper added 10 of his own, going 7 of 7 from the line.
It was a sluggish start as both teams missed their first four attempts from the field. Bruce Stevens started the scoring with a three-pointer with 16:32 on the clock. On the other end of the floor, the senior forward provided a huge rejection to cause an Auburn shot clock violation. Two fouls four minutes into the game forced Terence Davis to the bench for the remainder of the first half. However, the Rebels locked down on defense, limiting the Tigers to 2 of 12 shooting over the first eight minutes. After coming off the bench, Luis Rodriguez grabbed a defensive rebound and went coast-to-coast past a pair of Auburn defenders. The freshman’s layup gave Ole Miss a 9-6 advantage.
With scored tied a 9-9, the Rebels barely beat the shot clock on back-to-back possessions. Tyree sliced to the hoops for a nifty layup before Devontae Shuler drilled an NBA-range three as the horn sounded. Ole Miss forced a pair of empty trips down the floor for Auburn, and Tyree nailed his second triple of the ballgame. The 8-0 gave Ole Miss a 17-9 lead with 8:07 left in the opening half.
The Rebels increased their lead to double digits before Auburn sliced into it before the first half buzzer. Behind 12 points from Shuler and 10 from Tyree, Ole Miss took a 30-24 cushion into the locker room. Neither team shot very well in the first 20 minutes, as the Rebels made one-third of their shots, while the Tigers posted a 32.0 field goal percentage (8 of 25). Auburn’s 24 points were its lowest in a half this season. Ole Miss attempted 20 three-pointers in the first half, making seven of them.
After sitting the final 16 minutes of the first half due to foul trouble, Terence Davis immediately made his presence known to start the second half by hitting a corner three to put the Rebels up nine. However, the senior picked up two additional fouls in a 30-second span and had to sit with four. Despite one of their veteran leaders having to go back to the bench, the Rebels increased the lead to double digits, 39-29, thanks to a pair of threes by Shuler and Tyree.
Okeke scored 12 straight points for Auburn, including his own 8-0 run, to make it a one-possession ballgame for the first time since midway through the opening half. Zach Naylor ended the run with another Ole Miss three right before the shot clock expired. Naylor made a nice cut to the hole for another bucket, as Tyree found him for the easy deuce. The five points from Naylor bumped the Ole Miss lead to seven, 44-37, with 11 minutes to go.
Auburn got within three before Terence Davis hit a three and Shuler added two free throws, making it 56-48 with 3:48 on the clock. Once again, the Tigers got back within three, 58-55. However, the Rebels stood their ground and forced Auburn misses. Tyree nailed down the victory, sinking two free throws with 12 second left.
After playing back-to-back road games, the Rebels return to the friendly confines of The Pavilion (Feb. 16). Ole Miss hosts Missouri the first of two games against the Tigers this season. Tipoff is slated for 2:30 p.m. on SEC Network.
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Ole Miss swept the season series and have now won 12 of last 14 in the overall series, five of six at Auburn.
The Tigers only led for 21 seconds of the entire season series, tonight, after the Rebels had a wire-to-wire victory at The Pavilion.
The Rebels held Auburn to their lowest point total (55) and field goal percentage (32.7) this season.
Head coach Kermit Davis became just the fourth coach in Ole Miss history to win 17 of his first 25 games.
Ole Miss made a season-high 13 three-pointers, the eighth-most in school history; the 33 attempts were the fifth-most in school history.
Breein Tyree scored 20 points for the sixth straight game.
Devontae Shuler made a career-high 5 threes.
Zach Naylor tied a career-high with 5 points.
With freshman Blake Hinson missing the game due to the flu, fellow freshman KJ Buffen started in his place; it was Buffen’s second career start (Feb. 2 vs. Mississippi State).
Ole Miss limited Auburn to 24 points in the first half, the Tigers’ lowest output in a half this season.