(2017-18 RECORD: 19-2, 7-1 SEC) vs. (2017-18 RECORD: 11-10, 4-4 SEC)
|Tue, Jan 30||8 p.m.|
By Greg Ostendorf
AUBURN, Ala. -- When No. 11 Auburn travels to Ole Miss on Tuesday, it will be the highest the program has been ranked since 2000. It's also the first time since the 1998-1999 season that Auburn has held sole possession of first place in the SEC this late in the season, which means over the next month, every other team in the conference will be chasing the Tigers.
That puts a giant target on Auburn's back beginning Tuesday night.
"I think everybody wants to beat us since we are the hottest team in the SEC right now," sophomore point guard Jared Harper said Monday. "So a win against us would mean a lot. We understand that, and we know that we have to come in every game and play like it is for the SEC championship."
The unique thing about playing Ole Miss is that the two sides have already met once. Auburn overcame a 10-point halftime deficit at home to beat the Rebels, 85-70, on Jan. 9.
However, Ole Miss was without its leading scorer, Deandre Burnett, that game. The senior guard, who is averaging 15.2 points per game this season, will be back for Tuesday's game. He's coming off back-to-back games where he's scored 20-plus points, and Auburn coach Bruce Pearl knows his team will see a different team with Burnett in the lineup.
"[They're] just more explosive," Pearl said. "They're undefeated in the SEC at home. They've already beaten Alabama and Florida at home, which are two of the top four in the league. They're good. They're real explosive, and Burnett makes them that much better."
Tuesday's game is scheduled to tip off at 8 p.m. CT from The Pavilion at Ole Miss. Rod Bramblett and Sonny Smith will have the radio call on 93.9 Tiger FM, online at AuburnTigers.com and on the TuneIn app. The game will also be televised on SEC Network with Dave Neal and Daymeon Fishback on the call.
Player to watch: Desean Murray
In the first matchup with Ole Miss, Desean Murray put up 16 points and eight rebounds in 29 minutes of action as the Tigers won, 85-70. Most of the junior's damage occurred at the foul line as he knocked down 12 of 15 from the charity stripe. Murray is shooting a blistering 88 percent from the foul line in SEC play as he has hit 44 of 50 attempts.
Inside the series: Ole Miss
Auburn and Ole Miss will meet for the 135th time on the court Tuesday night. The Tigers are 74-60 against the Rebels all-time, but Ole Miss leads the series, 41-23, on its home court and has taken the last eight decisions in Oxford, dating back to 2008.
Leaving no doubt
Auburn leads the SEC and is No. 14 nationally with a +13.8 scoring margin. The Tigers have won 15 games by double digits this season, including six of their seven SEC wins, which is one more than the total (14) from the previous three seasons combined. It's the most double-digit wins overall and in SEC play since the 2008-2009 season.
Mustapha No. 5
On Monday, sophomore guard Mustapha Heron was named the SEC Player of the Week. He's the first Auburn player to earn two Player of the Week accolades from the conference since Korvotney Barber during the 2006-07 season. He is the fourth Tiger in program history to earn two weekly honors in the same season.
Following his 21-point performance against LSU, Heron has now reached the 20-point plateau 10 times in his young career, including four times this season (22 vs. Hofstra, 31 vs. Winthrop, 21 at Dayton, 21 vs. LSU).
Streaking at home
Auburn extended what is already the longest winning streak at Auburn Arena to 12 games by beating LSU on Saturday. It's now the fifth-longest home streak in program history, and the Tigers are the only SEC team is still undefeated at home this season.
Take a timeout
Click here to vote for Bruce Pearl and Children's Harbor in the Coaches Charity Challenge. The coach with the most votes after four rounds wins $100,000 for their charity. Each charity will receive money for every round their representative coach is voted through.
Greg Ostendorf is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @greg_ostendorf