AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Auburn coach Bruce Pearl saw his team taking what Mississippi’s defenders were giving, and that wasn’t good enough. So in the second half, the Eagles tried to take over by simply taking charge.
Desean Murray had 16 points and eight rebounds, and No. 22 Auburn erased a ten-point halftime deficit to beat Mississippi 85-70 on Tuesday night.
Auburn (15-1, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) won its 13th straight game overall and opened 3-0 in conference play for the first time since 2002-03. Auburn had lost 10 straight against Ole Miss.
Playing its first home game as a ranked team since 2000, Auburn came out flat, missing its first four shots and shooting 34 percent from the field in the first half, including 3 of 17 from deep.
Auburn emphasized attacking the basket after halftime, as the Tigers went ten minutes without attempting a 3-point shot to open the second half. Auburn went 29 for 37 at the free-throw line and outscored Ole Miss 50-25 in the second half.
“We were settling in the first half. And it was my turn, and it fed off each other,” Pearl said. “We talked about shot selection, and we talked about, ‘Did we shoot the shots we wanted to shoot? Or the shots they wanted us to shoot?’ We settled. We didn’t talk about not shooting the 3, but we talked about execution and not settling.”
While the offensive adjustments had a much more visible impact, Pearl emphasized that changes on the defensive end also played a big part in the momentum shift.
“We made some adjustments in the second half with our matchups. We extended defensively a little bit,” Pearl said. “And I don’t think there’s any question us guarding them wore them down. That had a lot to do with us being able to outplay them so much.”
Mustapha Heron added 15 points for Auburn, and Afernee McLemore added 13 points and nine rebounds.
Breein Tyree led the Rebels (9-7, 2-2) with 24 points.
Playing without leading scorer Deandre Burnett, Ole Miss silenced the Auburn crowd early, scoring 14 points off 11 Auburn turnovers and taking a 45-35 halftime lead. The Rebels shot just 26 percent in the second half.
“In the second half we just completely melted down, which allowed them to get out and do what they do and get off in the open floor and make plays,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said.
Mississippi: Tyree replaced Burnett in the starting lineup and led the Rebels on 7-of-18 shooting. Dominik Olejniczak had 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Auburn: The Tigers can stretch their undefeated start with winnable upcoming games against Mississippi State, Alabama, Georgia and Missouri. They aren’t slated to face a ranked opponent until they host Kentucky on Feb. 14.
Mississippi: Hosts Florida on Saturday.
Auburn: Plays at Mississippi State on Saturday.