Ole Miss has historically served as the SEC’s doormat, harnessing the league’s worst all-time overall and conference records.
Auburn certainly has enjoyed the spoils of playing the Rebels, the victim of Auburn’s highest head-to-head winning percentage against any SEC opponent.
Times have changed, particularly in the seven years with Andy Kennedy guiding the Rebels. After Ole Miss’ 88-55 victory Saturday at Tad Smith Coliseum, Kennedy improved to 10-5 against the Tigers, and Ole Miss has its second 4-game winning streak against Auburn in series history (and first since 1989-90).
The ignominy doesn’t end there. In the first 82 years and 120 games of this rivalry, Ole Miss’s largest margin of victory was 28 points entering 2011. In the last seven games – all on Auburn coach Tony Barbee’s watch – Ole Miss has won by 31 and 33 points.
The 33-point defeat is also Auburn’s (9-18, 3-11 SEC) most lopsided in three years under Barbee, who dropped to 12-36 against SEC competition with the Tigers. It’s the second time in eight days Auburn has lowered the bar for worst loss under Barbee, following last Saturday’s 83-52 loss to then-No. 7 Florida.
The SEC’s leading scorer and Auburn villain Marshall Henderson came off the Ole Miss (20-7, 9-5) bench for the first time this year, as Kennedy looked to shake the doldrums out of his team – which had lost five of seven since a tightly-contested 63-61 win at Auburn Arena on Jan. 26.
Henderson was unaffected, sinking five 3-pointers – some unapologetically far behind the arc – during a 19-point first-half explosion. He finished with 28 points, and a program-best-tying eight 3-pointers on 11 tries.
On Jan. 28, Barbee said of Henderson, “he’s an explosive player … offensively, and in other ways.” That was in response to the two-point defeat last month, after which Henderson was caught on camera popping his jersey and taunting the Auburn student section.
Henderson wasn’t without controversy Saturday with the clock running out. After the whistle blew on a fast-break foul, he launched a dead-ball half-courter and made contact with Auburn senior Frankie Sullivan.
When Henderson crashed to the floor, he got up screaming an obscenity at Sullivan – though it appeared Sullivan didn’t do anything malicious, Henderson was restrained by coaches and teammates to the bench.
Junior forward Allen Payne had nine points, seven rebounds and two steals for Auburn. Junior guard Chris Denson, who led the Tigers in points three straight games from Feb. 9-16, only played three scoreless minutes, all in the first half.
Arguably the Tigers’ biggest game in the remainder of this lost season beckons Tuesday, when they go for a season sweep of in-state rival Alabama (18-9, 10-4).
It will be Auburn’s fifth straight opponent coming off a loss, with the Crimson Tide’s triple-overtime defeat at LSU to cripple Alabama’s SEC title and NCAA tournament hopes.
- Senior center Rob Chubb was the only Tiger who started each of his team’s first 26 games, but assumed a reserve role for the first time since the 2011 SEC Tournament – Chubb’s sophomore year.
Junior college transfer Asauhn Dixon-Tatum was given his first start with the Tigers, but didn’t reward Barbee’s decision by picking up two fouls in the first three minutes, summoning Chubb to the court.
Chubb and Noel Johnson weren’t much more disciplined, finding themselves in foul trouble quickly as well. Ole Miss ended up 21-for-26 from the free-throw line, supplementing Henderson’s long-range attack.
- The three-point line was as decisive as the final score – Ole Miss was 13-for-25, Auburn was 3-for-18. The Rebels also ended with heavy advantages in rebounding (39-22), assists (18-11) and blocks (4-0).
- Barbee did not make his regularly-scheduled postgame radio appearance on Auburn Sports Network, sending assistant coach Ryan Miller for remarks.