With Marshall Henderson serving the second installment of his three-game suspension, Ole Miss needed someone to step up against Auburn on Thursday night.
Enter Aaron Jones.
It's not so much what Jones did on the offensive side of the floor -- 12 points, four offensive rebounds -- but what he did on defense. The junior forward had five steals, five blocks and three defensive boards to help key the Rebels to a much-needed 65-62 win in their SEC opener.
Jones was everywhere on defense, showing a quick step to the hoop that has helped make him the conference's third-best shot rejecter with 2.7 blocks per game. His swat of Malcom Canada (really, that's your name, bro?) with just 25 seconds left kept the Tigers from pulling to within one possession and helped seal the deal.
Not that Jones was idle on offense. With Ole Miss clinging to a 58-57 lead with just under three minutes left, he made back-to-back buckets to stretch the lead to five.
He did make the boneheaded mistake of fouling a 3-point shooter with 16 seconds left, which let Auburn pull to within 64-62. Demarco Cox hit one of two free throws and the Tigers missed a late 3 to give the Rebels the win.
Derrick Millinghaus replaced Henderson in the starting lineup and responded with a team-high 16 points and Jarvis Summers added 14. Snoop White had all 10 of his points in the second half, including a pair of 3s. His first 3 with 12:25 remaining snapped a nearly six-minute Rebel scoring drought and his second tied the game at 41.
Despite Jones's performance, it's becoming more and more apparent that he and Cox are struggling to fill the front court void left by the departed Murphy Holloway and Reggie Buckner. Ole Miss was once again out-rebounded Thursday night, this time 40-30.
Cox is of particular concern. For the sixth consecutive game, the big man had single-digit totals in points and rebounds, finishing with four points and four boards. After a strong start to the season that had us giddy over the his perceived development, he's abruptly gone flaccid against stiffer competition (/shades).
Henderson will serve the final game of his suspension when the Rebs take on State this Saturday.