Auburn guard Bryce Brown (2) passes the ball over Ole Miss guard Devontae Shuler (0) Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018, during the first half of an NCAA basketball game at Auburn Arena in Auburn, Ala.(
Auburn basketball aims to snap 10-year losing streak at Ole Miss
Ole Miss guard Terence Davis (3) defends a shot by Auburn guard Mustapha Heron (5) Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018, during the second half of an NCAA basketball game at Auburn Arena in Auburn, Ala.
Somewhere on a hardwood in Oxford, there are demons Auburn must exorcise.
The buildings have changed but Auburn’s results at Ole Miss have remained the same. Eight straight losses over the last 10 years, first at Tad Smith Coliseum and then two trips to The Pavilion, which was the site of a disastrous loss for the Tigers last season that featured a blown 23-point lead as the Rebels scored 63 points in the second half en route to a 90-84 win.
No. 11 Auburn (19-2, 7-1 SEC) already snapped its 10-game losing streak to Ole Miss earlier this month and tonight (8 p.m. CT, SEC Network) it’ll try to win in Oxford for the time since a 90-78 win on Feb. 16, 2008. The Tigers are 4.5-point favorites, according to VegasInsider.com.
Bruce Pearl planned to mention the stretch of futility to his team before it faced the Rebels (11-10, 4-4 SEC), who have lost three of their last four but are 4-0 at home in SEC play.
"We’ve kind of struggled there," point guard Jared Harper said. "We were up 20 there (last year), I think over 20, we should have won, but we let them come back. We’re taking that mindset going into the game knowing that we have to be able to finish."
Closing has not been an issue for Auburn this season.
The Tigers have scored 50 points in a half 10 times, with eight of those coming in second halves, including in an 85-70 win over Ole Miss on Jan. 9. Each of Auburn’s last three lopsided wins featured a 50-point half.
However, the Rebels did not have leading scorer Deandre Burnett against the Tigers in their first meeting this season.
Pearl said Burnett, who averages 15.2 points and 4.5 assists, makes the Rebels "more explosive." He has four 20-point games in SEC play.
"Them not having their best player (in the first game) and then also we were playing at home, now we’re going to their gym and they’re going to have the extra edge of just knowing that we’re beatable," Harper said. "I think everybody wants to beat us. We’re probably the hottest team in the SEC right now, so winning against us will mean a lot. We understand that and we know we have to come in every game and play like it’s for the SEC Championship."
Ole Miss had a 10-point lead with 5:34 to go in the first half against the Tigers. That squad with Burnett has Pearl’s attention.
"They really disrupted us in a lot of things that we tried to do," he said. "We were down 38-28 late in the first half and they at that point then shot 1 for 10. They put three or four shots in and we go down 20, not 10. We didn’t play great, but I think they had a lot to do with it. Their changing defenses bothered us, slowed us down a little bit, then their ability to get out in transition and attack the rim, take advantage of our long shots, long rebounds, misses and turnovers, it was a tough matchup for us."
Auburn plays at the fastest tempo in the SEC and the Rebels do not shy away from it either.
To finally win in Oxford, the Tigers may need to win a track meet.
"They got really good guards and they can play small ball with us. I don’t think we’ll change our approach," Pearl said. "We’re not either good enough or big enough or strong enough to be able to dictate tempo. We got to be able to play at any tempo and still have a chance to be successful."
James Crepea is an Auburn beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @JamesCrepea.