Ole Miss trounces Auburn

Even with 16 from Denson, Auburn was handled by Ole Miss.

OXFORD, Miss. – Chris Denson hobbled around the tunnel at the Tad Smith Coliseum on Wednesday night, hunched forward slightly, halting momentarily before each step, a souvenir gleaned from a hard fall taken on a foul near the rim earlier in the night.

The Tigers’ freshman guard served as a fitting symbol for the rest of his team after Ole Miss’ 90-59 win over Auburn in front of 6,819 fans.

The Rebels (17-9, 5-6 SEC) hung more points on the Tigers (9-16, 2-9) than any other opponent this season, beat them more soundly than any other opponent this season and handed them their worst loss since a 78-41 drubbing at Pittsburgh on Dec. 4, 2005.

“As bad as we were in every phase of the game, they were that good in every phase,” Auburn coach Tony Barbee said. “It was just one of those nights. Defensively, we were bad, and they were that good offensively.”

Ole Miss started out hot, taking a 10-2 lead in the first 2:34, then went ice cold, missing 10 straight shots and not making a basket for the next 9:25.

Auburn closed within 2 during that stretch, but could not get over the hump.

And, with a Reginald Buckner layup and a 3-pointer by Trevor Gaskins, the Rebels were off to the races, closing the half on a 24-9 run and taking a 39-22 lead into the break.

Auburn scored two quick baskets off turnovers to start the second half, and it looked like the Tigers might have another comeback in them like the 19-point deficit they overcame to beat Mississippi State on Saturday.

Ole Miss didn’t fall into the same trap its in-state rival did, ripping off an 18-3 run to remove any doubt from the outcome.

The Rebels shot 56.8 percent (25-of-44) from the field on the night, including a torrid 13-of-25 (52.0 percent) from beyond the arc. Take out the 10 missed shots during their Ice Age, and they made 73.5 percent of their shots.

Zach Graham was especially devastating, scoring a career-high 30 points on 9-of-15 shooting, including a 7-of-11 mark from beyond the arc.

“It was defense,” Denson said. “It was 15-13, but I know they were missing shots. Our defense got lazy. If you leave a player wide-open so long, they make open shots. That’s what they did.”

Denson scored a career-high 16 points on the night, providing a lone bright spot in the Tigers’ offense.

Josh Langford had 9, Adrian Forbes scored 8, and Earnest Ross – coming off two games in which he averaged 25.5 points – was limited to 7 on 2-of-6 shooting.

“I understand that (opposing teams) key on me now,” Ross said. “Coach puts me in situations like that, but I have to continue to get better and make plays no matter how they’re playing or what defense they’re playing me.”

Ole Miss had a number of complements to Graham’s night, with leading scorer Chris Warren netting 15, Terrance Henry scoring 14, and Reginald Buckner adding 11.

Henry and Buckner, the Rebels’ two starters in the post, combined to shoot 6-of-7 from the field and 13-of-15 from the line. They also blocked four shots and recorded three steals.

“They were being physical defensively, they were pressing, and I thought we played meek tonight,” Barbee said. “I thought we played passive.”

Wednesday’s loss is a marked step in the wrong direction from the way the Tigers have been playing lately.

Auburn was coming off its dramatic comeback win over Mississippi State and an overtime loss to Georgia.

Now, instead of peaking, the Tigers appear to be falling back on old habits as they welcome No. 18 Vanderbilt to town Saturday.

“It’s very disappointing,” Denson said. “We had a good day of practice yesterday, coming in confident, all pumped up. To have a bad loss like this is very disappointing. We’ve got a hard game Saturday, and hopefully it will be better than this.”

dmorrison@oanow.com | 737-2568

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