Dwayne Curtis made a decision four seasons ago to transfer from Auburn to Mississippi and it appears to be the right one.
Curtis and the No. 18 Rebels look to extend their best start in 82 years and pick up a rare SEC road win Saturday when they visit the Tigers.
Mississippi (15-1, 2-1) features one of the top post players in the SEC in Curtis, who will make his final trip to Auburn. The 6-foot-8 Curtis played his freshman season at Auburn in 2003-04, averaging 2.9 points and 2.3 rebounds in 19 games before transferring to Mississippi when former Tigers coach Cliff Ellis was fired.
The decision seems to have paid off. Curtis is second in the SEC with seven double-doubles and third in the league in rebounding with 8.4 per game to help the Rebels to their best start since the 1925-26 team went 16-1.
Mississippi could be headed to its first NCAA tournament since 2002 while Auburn (10-5, 1-2) has yet to reach the postseason in the three seasons since Curtis left.
Curtis had another strong game Wednesday with 20 points and 12 rebounds as Mississippi beat two-time defending national champion Florida 89-87.
The Rebels shot 54.1 percent from the field—their third highest mark of the season. They led the entire second half, but had to hold off a late rally by Florida to preserve the win - Mississippi’s first over the Gators since 2002.
“It is a statement game, but you don’t want to make more of it than it is,” Curtis said. “But it’s still important to beat Florida at home.”
Trevor Gaskins added 19 points in the win. The freshman guard had scored a total of only 28 points in his previous seven games before he made 6-of-9 shots, including three 3-pointers, on Wednesday.
The Rebels won both meetings against the Tigers last season, but have dropped seven of their last 10 visits to Auburn. Curtis had 19 points and 11 rebounds in last season’s win at Auburn—the only SEC road victory for Mississippi in its last 16 away from home.
Auburn snapped its three-game losing streak Wednesday with a 74-67 win over LSU. The Tigers shot 54.7 percent from the field and were led by Dewayne Reed, who had 20 points. Frank Tolbert added 16 points and nine rebounds.
The Tigers trailed by as many as 17 points in the first half before shooting 69 percent from the field in the second half to take command.
Auburn has been trying to adjust offensively since losing Korvotney Barber to a broken hand on Dec. 29. Barber, who led the Tigers with 13.8 points and 6.9 rebounds, is expected to miss a few more weeks with the injury. In his absence, Auburn has looked to Quan Prowell, who has started the last five games and is averaging 13.8 points and 5.7 rebounds for the season.
Auburn has not faced a ranked opponent this season. The Tigers were 3-5 against top 25 foes last season, including 2-3 at home.