March 2, 2011
AUBURN -- Auburn came from 20 points down in the second largest comeback in school history to defeat Ole Miss 76-73 in Auburn Arena on Wednesday. Kenny Gabriel scored a career-high 24 points, making 3-of-5 three-pointers to lead the Tigers.
Auburn (10-19, 3-12) trailed 38-18 with 2:01 left in the first half as Ole Miss went 8-of-16 from 3-point range to take a 41-25 halftime lead. Dundrecous Nelson, who scored a career-high 30 points on 7-of-12 treys, had 19 points in the opening period alone on 6-of-9 three-pointers.
"It was an outstanding effort from this game, even though we were down by 20," said Auburn head coach Tony Barbee. "We've been down 20 before. We've been up 20 before. This team has shown fight. This team has gotten better. It's not even the same team from the first game of the year. It's not even the same team from the first game of the conference season. This is a totally different team.
"What I told the guys was with our record over the last 10 games of the year, we shouldn't have had 500 fans in here. If they didn't show up, I wouldn't be mad at them for our record. What thihs goes to show is that, yes, they want you to win, but more than that, it's not about alley-oop dunks. It's not about 3-pointers. It's about if you give everything you have, every second you're on the floor, these fans appreciate it. They made a huge difference in the game tonight with how loud they were. It was kind of a tale of two halves."
Gabriel knocked down two 3-pointers in the first 42 seconds of the second half to get the Tigers back in the game at 41-31. Ole Miss (18-12, 6-9) still led 49-41 with 10:34 remaining, but Auburn scored nine straight points in only 1:37 to take its first lead since five minutes into the game. The Tigers capped their 13-1 run on a Chris Denson layup as Auburn went ahead 54-50 with 9:06 to play.
"That has to be my best game at Auburn," said Gabriel. "I wish I could play like this more, but through the course of the season, your body wears down a bit. I am happy we got this win. Since the beginning of the year, everyone has said that they feed off of my energy, so I am happy that I knocked them down and got everybody in the gym rowdy and ready to play."
After the score was tied at 49, there were five lead changes and six ties in the game. With the score tied at 63, Auburn took the lead for good at 65-63 on a Rob Chubb baby hook in the lane with 2:59 left. Chubb then blocked a Terrance Henry layup and scored on a dunk on the other end for a Tiger four point lead with 2:07 on the clock.
"Any energy plays in general are huge," said Chubb. "It unites the team and makes them want to go at them that much harder. If I see an opportunity to make one of those plays, I am going to and if someone else has a chance, it's their job to make it. It gets the crowd going and the team honed in."
A pair of Gabriel free throws gave Auburn its largest lead of the game at 72-67 with 1:03 left, but Chris Warren, who entered the game second in the SEC with a 19.0 scoring average, sank three foul shots five seconds later. Warren scored 12 points, but was held to 3-of-16 shooting from the field.
Denson, who scored nine of his 11 points in the second half, went 4-of-4 from the foul line in the final 35 seconds to keep the Rebels at bay. After Denson's first made pair, Warren drilled a 3-pointer to close Ole Miss to within 74-73 with 21 seconds to go.
Auburn turned the ball over in the backcourt, and Ole Miss had possession with 16 seconds left. The Rebels threw it away on the inbounds pass, and the Tigers regained possession with :14 left. Ole Miss then stole another pass in the backcourt with :09 seconds left, but Ross stole the ball back for the Tigers and Denson was fouled with :02 remaining.
Denson sank the pair of foul shots and Nelson's desperation 3-pointer hit off the left side of the backboard.
The statistics were nearly identical in separate halves as the Rebels shot 56.0 percent in the first half and 25.9 percent in the second for 40.4 percent for the game. The Tigers shot 56.0 percent in the second half after shooting 23.1 percent in the first for 39.2 percent total.
Ole Miss was 11-of-29 (.379) from 3-point range while Auburn was 5-of-16 (.313) while the Tigers were 31-of-40 (.775) from the free throw line and the Rebels were 20-of-24 (.833). Ole Miss gave Auburn its worst loss of the season, defeating the Tigers 90-59 in Oxford on Feb. 16.
It was the third comeback for a win for the Tigers of 17 points or more this year, as Auburn came from 19 down to defeat Mississippi State and beat Middle Tennessee State after trailing by 17. The largest comeback in school history came when Auburn erased a 22-point deficit to beat No. 13 Louisville in the 1995 Puerto Rico Shootout championship game.
Earnest Ross had 15 points for Auburn while Chubb had 11.
Auburn plays its regular season finale at LSU on Saturday at 6 pm Central in Maravich Assembly Center. The game will be televised by FSN South. The winner will be the SEC's Western Division No. 5 seed while the loser will be the No. 6 seed.