AP photo by Bruce Newman|
Mississippi’s Todd Abernethy (10) drives by Auburn defenders Dewayne Reed, left, and Josh Dollard during the Rebels’ 83-79 win in Oxford, Miss., on Saturday. The loss dropped Auburn to 17-14 overall and 7-9 in the SEC West Division.
feels the pain
Tigers’ loss drops them to a 4th or 5th seed for SEC tourney
By Bradley Handwerger
OXFORD, Miss. — Quan Prowell brought Auburn to within an eyelash of the SEC’s Western Division title Saturday.
But in the blink of an eye — or the split-second it takes to make a decision — Prowell all but gave the game away.
Driving down the floor with a 3-point lead, Prowell could have held up and run clock. Instead, he saw teammate Frank Tolbert break open behind him.
Prowell passed the ball, but it bounded out of Tolbert’s hands and into the Rebels’ Todd Abernethy’s hands.
Ole Miss came back down the floor, Clarence Sanders squared up, lofted a shot from behind the arc and tied the game with 41.5 seconds to play.
Auburn never fully recovered. The Tigers fell at Ole Miss 83-79, dropping from a four-way tie for first into either the fourth or fifth seed in this week’s SEC tournament in Atlanta.
“I saw Frank coming and at the last minute tried to get it to him,” said Prowell, who had an otherwise stellar game, finishing with a career-high 26 points, 22 coming in the second half. “He couldn’t catch the ball, and I think that was the turning point in the game.”
Ole Miss (19-11, 8-8 SEC) secured at least a tie for first in the West, and can win the division outright if Alabama beats Mississippi State on Sunday.
Meanwhile, an Alabama win would make Auburn (17-14, 7-9) the fifth seed in the tournament and a State win would put the Tigers fourth.
Even when Sanders’ 3-pointer swished through, Auburn still had time to pull out the win.
Ole Miss’ Jeremey Parnell knocked the ball loose from Auburn guard DeWayne Reed on the ensuing inbounds pass, then converted the layup to give the Rebels a 79-77 lead with 33.2 seconds left.
Auburn came down the court and Reed found Josh Dollard open beneath the basket for a game-tying dunk with 25 seconds to play.
Ole Miss bled the clock down to 3.8 seconds, when Tolbert fouled Bam Doyne at the top of the key.
“The block call with 3 seconds was a tough call for us,” Lebo said.
Doyne made both free throws, putting Auburn down 81-79. Reed rushed down the floor, and with a foul to give, the Rebels fouled him with .7 seconds on the clock.
Auburn had a chance to inbound from near midcourt, but Rasheem Barrett’s pass hit the backboard, turning the ball over to Ole Miss.
The Tigers fouled before time ran off the clock, and Doyne converted both free throws and the game was over.
“That hurts about as bad as I’ve ever had one hurt,” Auburn head coach Jeff Lebo said. “I thought we did a lot of good things out there for our team. Just a couple of mistakes there at the end of the game. Decision-making hurt us.”
Though the Tigers had a chance near the end, having guard Quantez Robertson foul out with 3:12 to play hurt Auburn.
With Reed and Robertson in the game, Auburn is a different team.
“It’s huge,” Lebo said.
“He’s on the bench. You want to have your veteran be out there playing in that position. At that time, when he was out there, we were much more at ease.”
Josh Dollard finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds for Auburn, which also got 13 from Tolbert.
Doyne led Ole Miss with 19, Sanders added 18 and Abernethy had 15 points and eight assists.
Now Auburn must recover in time to play a Thursday game in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Its postseason hopes could depend on at least one win in the tournament.
“It’s anybody’s tournament,” Tolbert said. “Everybody is playing good basketball right now.”
Save $84.50 a year off our newsstand price:
Subscribe today for only 38 cents a day!