Auburn (15-15) vs. Ole Miss (18-12)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, March 8, 7:30 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: New Orleans Arena (18,500) -- New Orleans, Louisiana. Television: SEC Network. Home Record: Auburn 14-3, Ole Miss 12-2. Away Record: Auburn 1-10, Ole Miss 4-8. Neutral Record: Auburn 0-2, Ole Miss 2-2. Conference Record: Auburn 5-11, Ole Miss 8-8. Series Record: Auburn leads, 73-51.
GAME NOTES: The Ole Miss Rebels will try to continue their winning ways on Thursday evening at New Orleans Arena, as they take on the Auburn Tigers in the first round of the 2012 Southeastern Conference Tournament.
Ole Miss notched the seventh seed in this tourney following a three-game win streak to close out the regular-season at 8-8 in league play. The Rebels captured their lone league tourney title back in 1981 and remain rather underwhelming with their overall 24-48 mark in this event over the years. In fact, Ole Miss' .333 winning percentage in the SEC postseason is the worst of any current member, though it has managed to make four appearances in the championship game. The Rebels were bounced in the quarterfinals last year by Kentucky, but did snap a four-game losing streak in the SEC tourney by logging an opening-round win over South Carolina.
Auburn garnered the No. 10 seed after dropping three of its last four games, though it topped LSU in the regular-season finale to finish at 5-11 in the SEC. The Tigers also own just a single tournament crown in their history, taking home the hardware way back in 1985. Auburn's 27-48 all-time record in this event leaves it just ahead of Ole Miss with a .360 winning percentage. The Tigers have suffered a pair of first-round exits the last two years, falling to Georgia last season. The Tigers' last win in the SEC postseason came in 2009 with a quarterfinal-round victory over Florida.
The winner of this matchup advances to take on the SEC's surprise second seed, Tennessee, in the quarterfinals on Friday.
These two teams have met just twice previously in the SEC Tournament, splitting those contests. This will be their first SEC Tournament matchup since 1990. The two combatants also split the regular-season series for the second straight year. Auburn holds a 73-51 lead in the all-time series versus Ole Miss, with the Rebels owning a 3-1 edge in neutral-site affairs.
The Rebels feature a trio of double-digit scorers in senior Terrance Henry (12.3 ppg) and juniors Murphy Holloway (11.1 ppg) and Nick Williams (10.2 ppg). Holloway also tops the roster in rebounding at 8.9 per contest -- good for third in the SEC -- while shooting 52.3 percent from the floor. Freshman Jarvis Summers and junior Reginald Buckner play big roles in the Rebel offense as well, the former averaging 9.8 ppg and a team-high 3.2 assists, while the latter grabs 8.4 rpg, shoots 52.8 percent from the field and kicks in 6.9 ppg. Overall, the Rebels post 66.1 ppg but do so on only 43.1 percent shooting, while buckling down to allow a meager 40.5 percent efficiency to pair with an average yield of 65.4 ppg. Ole Miss is among the league's best in terms of rebounding, securing 38.3 caroms per contest while holding a plus-3.0 margin. One area of great concern is the Rebels' free-throw shooting which stands at 59.5 percent on the year -- easily the worst figure in the SEC and one of the worst in the country as well.
The Tigers' offense has good balance, but is not one to pile up the points. Junior Frankie Sullivan leads the effort at 12.6 ppg and serves as the team's best three-point shooter with 59 treys on 33.1 percent accuracy. Senior Kenny Gabriel checks in with 12.2 ppg and leads the team in rebounding with 7.6 rpg. Varez Ward and Chris Denson lend support with 9.0 and 8.7 ppg, respectively, while Rob Chubb kicks in 8.1 ppg and 5.1 rpg. Overall, Auburn puts up just 62.9 ppg on 42.0 percent shooting, while the defense tries its best to make those numbers stand up by allowing 63.8 ppg on 40.8 field goal efficiency. The Tigers are also outrebounded by the slightest of margins (34.9-34.4).
Ole Miss certainly has issues to sort out, mostly in closing out close games, but Auburn's offense is just about as unspectacular as they come. If the Tigers manage to pull out a win, it will most likely be at the end of a hard- fought, defensive battle.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ole Miss 65, Auburn 57
03/08 10:30:44 ET