By Greg Ostendorf
AUBURN, Ala. -- Twenty wins? Check. Two-game lead in the SEC heading into February? Check. Win another one on the road? Check. The special season for Auburn basketball continued Tuesday night as the No. 11 Tigers secured a road win at Ole Miss, 79-70.
Junior guard Bryce Brown led the way with 23 points, including 19 in the second half. It was Brown's three-point shot with seven minutes left that started a 13-2 run and helped Auburn start to pull away from Ole Miss, but the three-point specialist also showed the ability to take it to the rim on multiple occasions as he went 6 of 9 on shots inside the arc.
"He stepped up," Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said after the game. "He's got a different gear. He's got a swagger and a confidence, and he's not afraid to fail."
Brown was joined by fellow starters Mustapha Heron (16), Jared Harper (13) and Anfernee McLemore (10), who all scored in double figures. The team's fifth starter, Desean Murray, finished with nine points and a team-high 10 rebounds on his birthday.
As a team, Auburn won the rebounding battle, 42-41, and the SEC's top offensive-rebounding squad coming in pulled down 19 offensive rebounds, including 13 in the second half. That led to 17 second-chance points. The Tigers also locked in defensively, forcing 17 turnovers. They've now forced 101 turnovers in the past four games.
"Our second-half defense was really good," Pearl said. "We turned them over and disrupted them. We thought we needed to turn them over some to win."
Auburn has now won six true road games this season, and by winning Tuesday at Ole Miss, Pearl's team did something that fellow SEC contenders Florida and Alabama both failed to do earlier this month. In fact, no SEC team had won at Ole Miss prior to Tuesday, and with the Gators losing at Georgia, the Tigers now have a two-game lead in the conference standings.
"It just shows you we can go anywhere to any environment and pull out a win," Brown said.
For Auburn (20-2, 8-1), it's the first 20-win season since the 2008-2009 season and only the 10th time it's happened in program history. The Tigers will look to make it 21 wins this Saturday when Vanderbilt comes to Auburn Arena (7:30 p.m. CT, SEC Network).
Greg Ostendorf is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @greg_ostendorf