AUBURN, Ala. (AP)The Auburn Tigers didn’t need a big second-half comeback this time against Mississippi, but did have to avoid their own collapse.
Austin Wiley had 15 points and 11 rebounds and No. 15 Auburn withstood several Rebels’ rallies for a 67-58 win Tuesday night.
The Tigers (24-4, 11-4 Southeastern Conference) benefited from the return of Isaac Okoro, who missed the past three games with a hamstring injury, and remained unbeaten at home.
It was an especially timely return with a trip to No. 8 Kentucky on deck.
”It gives us a fighting chance against the best teams on our schedule,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said.
Samir Doughty had 14 points and four assists but also had five turnovers. Okoro had 10 points in 27 minutes after Auburn dropped two games without him. He and Doughty both played the final minutes with four fouls.
Pearl had intended to play Okoro about 16 minutes.
”The game was close in the second half and he felt good, so we played him a little more and he helped us,” the coach said.
The Tigers overcame a 19-point deficit to win the Jan. 28 meeting with the Rebels (13-14, 4-11) 83-82 in double overtime.
The SEC’s leading scorer, Breein Tyree, had 16 points for Ole Miss and KJ Buffen had 16 points and eight rebounds. Tyree shot just 3 of 19 from the field and scored five points below his season average.
He had averaged 29.5 points over the past six games. Backcourt mate Devontae Shuler fouled out with seven points.
”We tried a layup to get to two (down) and missed it,” Rebels coach Kermit Davis said. ”That’s the reason we’re 4-11. That’s the reason Auburn is 11-4.
”Samir Doughty and those guys have just made plays all SEC season long.”
Auburn made five of six free throws over the final minute to rebuild a safe cushion.
But Ole Miss had kept answering when the Tigers carved out double-digit leads. Auburn built a 14-point lead in the first half that Ole Miss cut to 41-39 midway through the second on Tyree’s two free throws.
Auburn built it back to double digits on a big sequence from Devan Cambridge. The freshman followed a steal and breakaway dunk with a 3-pointer from the corner for a 58-46 lead in the final six minutes.
Then Ole Miss scored eight straight points to stay alive. Wiley answered with a free throw and a dunk off a bounce pass from Doughty.
Okoro’s presence especially helped Auburn on the defensive end.
”I felt pretty good just getting up and down the court,” he said. ”Back playing with our guys, it was pretty fun.”
Ole Miss: The Rebels have won five of nine games at Auburn Arena. Tyree hit two 3-pointers to become the sixth Rebel with 200 in his career. Shot 18 of 53 (34%).
Auburn: The Tigers got their second season sweep of the Rebels since 2009. They hit 24 of 51 shots (47.1%).
Auburn’s 16th home win of the season broke the program’s single-season mark shared with the past two teams. The Tigers’ 35 SEC wins over three seasons also represent the most for the program and tops the total of the previous seven combined (34).
Ole Miss: Hosts Vanderbilt on Saturday.
Auburn: Visits No. 8 Kentucky on Saturday.
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