On a night when Kentucky fell to South Carolina in Rupp Arena and LSU dropped its third straight conference game, No. 21 Auburn took care of business in Oxford. It was not always pretty, with the Tigers even trailing at halftime, but Bruce Pearl’s offense came alive in the second half and helped secure the 82-73 victory over Ole Miss(8-8, 0-4 SEC).
“Road wins are huge in the SEC because it’s a dog fight every night,” said senior small forward Allen Flanigan.
It was another rough start for the Tigers on the road, shooting just 39.4% from the floor and 12.5% from three along with five costly turnovers. This led to an early 7-point deficit to Kermit Davis’ Rebels, who entered halftime with a slim one-point lead.
“Steven had planted a seed in my head that if we got a rough patch, call a timeout and try to settle them down,” said Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl about handling the early deficit.
The Tigers responded, specifically in the second half with a complete turnaround on the offensive end, shooting over 60% from the floor and 50% from beyond the arc while outscoring the Rebels 48-38 in the final frame.
“The offense was in front of our bench again in the second half, you know their 1-3-1 bothered us a bit,” Pearl said. "I just think it’s players making plays.”
The Rebels offense tried to keep pace with the Tigers, shooting 50% from the field, 41% from three and 81% at the charity stripe, but eight turnovers halted any momentum Ole Miss could get in the second half, making way for the Tigers to coast to victory.
Wendell Green Jr. was perfect from the free throw line (11-11) on his way to his first 20-point game of the season, leading the Tigers in points with 23. The veteran point guard struggled in the first half, going 1-of-7 with just five points through the first 20 minutes, but he sparked an offensive resurgence in the second half.
“I’ve been getting to the line a little bit more this year than I have ever in my career,” said Green on his free throw shooting. “You can’t let the shots dictate the rest of the game, I’m not just a scorer so I don’t let shots dictate my game.”
He also led the team in assists (7) and steals (3), building off of his performance against Arkansas on Saturday.
With his point guard struggling in the first half, Johni Broome stepped up for the Tigers, going 5-of-7 from the floor for 12 points in the first 20 minutes, finishing the game 19 points and 11 rebounds, his fourth straight double-double.
“Johni Broome, again, the best big on the floor,” Pearl said. “He's so consistent, and he gives us that inside scoring threat at the 5 that not a lot of other teams have.”
Behind Broome, Auburn dominated the glass 3828, including 12-6 in offensive rebounds. Along with Green and Broome, Jaylin Williams and Allen Flanigan both cracked double figures again with 12 and 15 points. The duo was a big part of Auburn taking control in the second half, going a combined 8-of-9 from the field during that stretch.
With a road win in a short week, Auburn will now have three days off before they return to Neville Arena for a vintage matchup with Mississippi State(12-3, 1-2 SEC). The contest will tip-off on January 14 in primetime(7:30 p.m. CST) on the SEC Network.
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