AUBURN, Ala. (EETV)- No. 4 Auburn Basketball defeated Ole Miss, 80-71, on Saturday in Oxford, Mississippi. The win extends Auburn’s winning streak to 13 games and moves their record to 16-1 on the season and 5-0 in SEC play.
“Ole Miss came out intent on winning and defending their home floor,” said head coach Bruce Pearl. “They had a great game plan… and we couldn’t guard them in the first half.”
Auburn came back from a 14-point first half deficit to get the win in a hostile arena. With 30 seconds left in the first half, K.D. Johnson pick-pocketed Daeshun Ruffin and picked up a foul. Johnson split his attempts from the line.
On the ensuing inbound Johnson reached into Ruffin’s pocket yet again and got fouled with under a second left in the half. This time the Georgia transfer nailed both of his foul shots.
Johnson helped cap off a 7-0 Auburn run that ended the first half and brought the Tigers within striking distance for the second half.
“We got more engaged defensively and that made the difference,” said Pearl. “It’s what won us the Alabama game and won us the game tonight.”
After fouling out of the last two games and playing a combined 37 minutes, Walker Kessler returned to his paint dominating performance the Auburn faithful had become accustomed to. Kessler picked up his sixth double-double of the season in a season best performance.
“Walker was dominate and he was dominate at the rim on both ends of the floor,” said Pearl. “He’s not afraid to make plays in the air. He owned the paint.”
The North Carolina transfer had a season-high point total of 20. Along the way, he added 10 rebounds, seven blocks and four steals.
“I expect that from [Walker Kessler] every game. I believe that he is the best big in the SEC,” said Johnson.
Logo Wendell Green made multiple appearances inside The Pavilion, including his 30-footer that helped ignite an 11-0 Auburn run in the second half that saw Auburn take the lead for the first time since the 13 minute mark in the first half.
Green finished his night with 14 points, five rebounds and seven assists. This is the ninth straight game that Green has scored in double figures.
Freshman Jabari Smith was also able to extend his double figure scoring streak to 14 straight-games. Smith finished with 15 points and three rebounds.
Auburn now faces the chance to be ranked No. 1 in the AP Top 25 poll for the first time in program history, when the polls get released on Monday.
“We have been managing that target for the last week or so. We had to deal with it tonight. When we get beat its not going to because we rested on laurels,” Pearl said.
Auburn will look to advance its winning streak to 14 games when Georgia heads to Auburn Arena on Wednesday, Jan. 19. Tip off is set for 8 P.M. CST and will be aired on ESPNU.