It was fitting perhaps that on football's national signing day, a little unnecessary roughness by an Auburn defensive lineman fired up Mississippi.
Auburn had cut a 16-point Mississippi lead to 44-41 and had possession of the basketball when reserve forward Kyle Derozan hit the Rebels' Londrick Nolen in the back while trying to chase down a loose ball.
Nolen went sprawling into some chairs, got up and stared at Derozan before deciding not to confront the 6-foot-3, 252-pound reserve tight end on Tommy Tuberville's football Tigers.
Instead of getting revenge by fighting, Nolen and the Rebels made their displeasure known by putting together a 17-3 run to put Auburn away in front of 4,468 fans at Tad Smith Coliseum.
Mississippi's 70-55 win dropped Auburn to 10-10 overall and 1-6 in the Southeastern Conference and moved the Tigers deeper into the cellar of the SEC West. Mississippi improved to 12-10 and 3-6 in the league, snapped a four-game losing streak and kept its faint National Invitation Tournament hopes alive.
"It was a big win for us," Mississippi coach Rod Barnes said. "It was a big relief for our guys."
Mississippi's late rally probably had less to do with emotion than it did Auburn's lack of size inside. The Tigers simply couldn't stop Mississippi's stocky center, Tommie Eddie, and Eddie's presence on the inside left Mississippi shooters open on the perimeter.
Justin Johnson's layup extended the Rebels' lead to 46-41 and Brandon Patterson's tip-in made it 48-41. From there, Eddie scored nine of the Rebels' next 11 points. Nolen's dunk with 6:30 left gave Mississippi a 61-44 lead with 6:30 left. Auburn never made much of a game of it from there.
"I asked him, Big fella, when are you gonna take us home? We need your help,'" Barnes said. "He didn't answer, so I was a little confused."
Eddie, who scored 18 points and grabbed 6 rebounds, said he decided to let his play do the talking.
"I just went out on the floor and did it," Eddie said.
For Auburn coach Jeff Lebo, it was just another tough loss with an extremely undersized, undermanned team.
"When you look at us, we're not a very imposing group of guys," Lebo said. "(Eddie) made some plays in there. He manhandled us. We tried to counter with a football player in there. The football team's hot.
"We just couldn't get over the hump. We got some good looks but we couldn't put the ball in the basket."
"They were just too big inside," said Auburn guard Toney Douglas, who scored 14 points. "In the first half, they were more physical than us. They just pounded the ball in and scored. They're bigger than us. They wanted it more than us."
Mississippi made nine of 18 shots from behind the 3-point line in the first half. Johnson, who finished with a game-high 19 points, made his first four attempts from the arc en route to a 5-for-7 shooting performance from behind the 3-point line.
His hot shooting allowed the Rebels to build a 17-point lead at one point in the first half before Auburn scored the final four points prior to halftime to close within 36-23.
"When we were going inside and out, you get better looks," Johnson said. "I allowed them to come to me. It feels good to have a good game but more importantly, it feels good to win."
Guard Nathan Watson was the only other Tiger to score in double-figures. Watson finished with 10 points. The Tigers shot 40 percent from the floor and committed 20 turnovers.
Four Rebels scored in double-figures, including Nolen's 13 points and freshman Brandon Patterson's 12.