Auburn Defeats Ole Miss: Rebels Say Bye to Possible SEC Tournament Bye

Dan GruczaContributor IMarch 2, 2011

Auburn first year coach Tony Barbee watching his Tigers
Auburn first year coach Tony Barbee watching his Tigers

Ole Miss was playing for a possible first-round bye in the SEC Basketball Tournament next week in Atlanta and Auburn was playing for, well, its third win in conference play this season. 

A bye would have been nice to Andy Kennedy's bunch as they have the talent to win the SEC tournament and the automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament, and it is much easier to win three games in a row versus four.

What a finish. 

Unless you have been watching Auburn basketball all year, you might have thought it was the red and orange uniforms causing all sorts of confusion to the point that the players could not tell the teams apart.  I know I had a hard time just watching. 

Memo to the SEC: If Ole Miss is going to wear red, Auburn should wear white at home and if Auburn for some reason insists on wearing those ugly orange uniforms then make Ole Miss wear blue.

Tony Barbee keeps saying this season has been like the movie "Groundhog Day" as he keeps waking up to the same nightmare ending. 

The Tigers dropped heart-breakers in their last two games on last-second baskets to Alabama and Arkansas. 

This time, even though they tried to give the game to the Rebels by turning it over twice under the Ole Miss basket in the final 20 seconds, they managed to win.  I still think it was the orange and red uniforms that caused the confusion at the end.

Auburn head coach Tony Barbee must have been humming "I Got You Babe" as the Rebels jumped out to a 20-point lead in the first half behind the torrid three-point shooting of Dundrecous Nelson, and the Tigers were on pace to score less than 50 points once again. 

But like their comeback against Mississippi State, Auburn scored 51 points in the second half to pull out the win.  I witnessed similar second-half outbursts against LSU and Arkansas. 

Was Gus Mahlzan in the locker room making half-time adjustments and installing his hurry-up offense in those games? 

The basketball Tigers looked more like the football Tigers in the second half with a potent offense led by Kenny Gabriel's 24 points including what should be another ESPN SportsCenter highlight catch, twist, and slam dunk alley-oop.

You have to give Tony Barbee a lot of credit.  After an exhibition loss to Columbus State and then opening the season with losses to UNC-Ashville, Samford, Campbell, and Presbyterian, I was wondering if it was a good hire. 

Even when Jeff Lebo did not have the talent, he would win these type of games.

It appeared that at some point in the season, Barbee gave in to his stubbornness and instead of trying to teach this team of Tigers his style of play, he decided to coach to their strengths. 

Realizing this team played man-to-man defense like a chair, Barbee mixed up his defenses and started to play a zone, and even took defense to the point where they had defense-only practices, and gave his team a chance to win.

Maybe he realized that next year's team was sitting in sweats at the end of the bench (Frankie Sullivan, Varez Ward, and Noel Johnson) or still playing high school basketball and he figured out he could work with next years players in practice. 

Regardless, Tony Barbee had this year's team playing hard and fighting to the buzzer in every game and is a good hire for the Auburn.

As for Andy Kennedy and his Rebels, a real head-scratcher to see a time when that much talent and senior leadership such as Chris Warren fold at the end as they said bye to a possible first round bye and now face a very tough hurdle in having to win four consecutive games to be dancing in the big dance.