Another SEC matchup coming up, and it is another must-win for the Tigers. Auburn welcomes Ole Miss (10-17, 2-12 SEC) to Neville Arena this week as only four games remain before the SEC Tournament. 

“We're facing, again, another must-win situation. Last time against Missouri, it was because there was a really good prize on the win. Because Missouri had won four in a row, they had just beaten Tennessee,” said Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl. “The contest against Ole Miss, that's not the case, a loss could do us  almost irreparable damage.”

Recent bracketology predictions from expert Joe Lunardi put Auburn as a 10 seed, facing Providence in the first round. Auburn is ahead of only one SEC team in the tournament, Mississippi State, which is set as an 11 seed and one of the last four in, according to Lunardi. 

It is hard to say if a loss to Ole Miss would do “irreparable damage,” but there is a lot going against the Tigers if they manage to drop Wednesday’s contest. The Rebels are just 2-7 on the road, and they have lost three straight, as well as eight of their last nine. A loss to them does hurt the resume significantly, especially with Auburn’s final three games being against Kentucky, Alabama and Tennessee. 

No game in the SEC is easy, but losses to the Tigers’ final three opponents would not be as impactful on the resume as a loss on Wednesday. 

One of the keys to keeping the Tigers’ NCAA Tournament hopes alive could be Lior Berman. The walk-on guard has carved out a role in Auburn’s rotation as a consistent scorer off the bench and a solid defender. 

Lior is playing another really good game, another really solid game. He's such a solid defender. He's a confident offensive player,” Pearl said. “He belongs out there. He really does. And I'm very proud and very happy for him. And we'll continue to utilize him.”

Berman has scored eight points in each of the last two games, both off the bench. His ability as a sharpshooter has helped open up a Tigers offense that is struggling from deep. In the last two games, Auburn has made 15 3-point shots, and Berman has been responsible for five of those. He is one of two players on the team shooting over 40% from beyond the arc this season, and he is the only one to do so while averaging more than one attempt per game.

“Just, you know, knowing that my coach, my teammates are confident in me and shooting the three ball just gives me all the confidence in the world to know that,” Berman said. “If I do want to take you know, extra shots, you know, I have the ability to do that.”

Berman’s last three games have been his most active roles in the offense since the LSU game in mid-January, and he is showing no signs of slowing down. 

“It's very satisfying, just knowing that, you know, the hours of work and practice, you know, getting reps up, you know, after practice before practice that paid off and just seeing the final result is a special feeling,” Berman said. 

Auburn will need more of Berman’s shooting in the final regular season stretch.

Auburn will look for its 19th win during the Wednesday clash with the Ole Miss Rebels. Another must-win game, the contest will tip-off on Wednesday, February 22, at 6 p.m. CT on the SEC Network. 

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