By Greg Ostendorf
AUBURN, Ala. -- All season, No. 22 Auburn has made it look easy. The Tigers had jumped out to big leads in the majority of the games during their current 12-game winning streak, and they have been one of the SEC's top three-point shooting teams.
On Tuesday against Ole Miss, it didn't come easy. The Tigers faced a 45-35 deficit at halftime, and as a team, they made just three of their 17 attempts from long distance. But they didn't panic. They didn't get down. They responded in the second half by playing tough, hard-nosed basketball and slowly began chipping away at the lead.
Auburn pulled back ahead with 12 minutes remaining and never looked back, outscoring the Rebels, 50-25 in the second half en route to an 85-70 victory. It was the team's 13th consecutive win this season and 10th straight at home, tying the record at Auburn Arena set from 2011 to 2012.
"They're up 10 at halftime and we weren't playing well," Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. "We made some adjustments in the second half with our matchups, we extended defensively a little bit, and I don't think there's any question that we guarded them in the second half and wore them down.
"This is the first time we've won an SEC game since I've been at Auburn where we didn't play particularly well or I didn't, in my mind, coach a great game. We'll take it. Good teams win those guys occasionally. It's just we've not. So we'll take it and move on to the next one."
In a game where toughness and grittiness was the key, it was no surprise that junior forward Desean Murray paced Auburn with 16 points and eight rebounds. Murray was 12 of 15 from the free-throw line and made a critical hustle play midway through the second half when he dove for the ball and kept possession for the Tigers.
Including Murray, six different players scored in double figures for Auburn.
In the first half, it was Anfernee McLemore and Horace Spencer who battled inside and scored seven points apiece to keep the Tigers in it. In the second half, Mustapha Heron and Bryce Brown got going, and the team's two leading scorers finished with 15 and 13 points respectively.
Brown, in particular, knocked down two critical three-point shots down the stretch and put the icing on the cake with a dunk in the final seconds that brought the noise level at Auburn Arena to another level. It was the first sell-out of the season, and with 3,400 students on hand, it was the largest recorded student crowd in the Pearl era.
"That means everything," McLemore said. "It provides a whole nother feel to the game because we got the crowd hyping us after every play. It makes our game better knowing we have so much support behind us. We're playing for the Auburn on our chest as well as everything else.
"It's what we came here for," Pearl said. "It's what we dreamed of. I looked up before the game, and I couldn't believe that everybody was in the seats. They're obviously excited about this team."
Auburn (15-1, 3-0) will look to extend its winning streak this Saturday when the team travels to Mississippi State for an afternoon tip (2:30 p.m. CT, SEC Network).
Greg Ostendorf is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @greg_ostendorf