After the Missouri Tigers defeated Auburn last night with a buzzer-beating 3 in OT on Day 1 of the SEC Tournament, the matchup for the Ole Miss Rebels first game of the tournament has been set.
The Rebels are 2-0 against Missouri this season, but have won each game by slim margins. With a 19-12 record, Ole Miss holds an outside chance at making it to the NCAA tournament. A win tonight is an absolute must if the Rebels want to see their postseason dreams come true.
In the first matchup against the Tigers, senior forward Sebastian Saiz led the way for Ole Miss finishing with 19 points along with 10 rebounds. Ole Miss topped Missouri 75-71 on the road, committing just 12 turnovers and shooting just under 43 percent. Terrence Davis scored 18 points, and Deandre Burnett scored 14 off the bench as he returned from an ankle injury. A tightly contested game throughout, the Rebels were aided by rushed shots by the Tigers down the stretch. Ole Miss went 17-23 from the free throw line, misses at the line could’ve derailed the Rebels if the Tigers were able to hit shots toward the end.
In the second matchup, an 80-77 victory for Ole Miss, the Rebels did their damage from beyond the arc. Shooting an efficient 52 percent from 3, Ole Miss knocked down 11 3’s but were unable to pull away from the Tigers. Leading for the majority of the second half, the Rebels couldn’t provide the knockout punch until the final minute of the game. A balanced offensive attack saw four Rebels score in double figures, led by Burnett with 28 points. Breein Tyree’s 15 was a boost for the offense as his maturation continued as the season progressed. With 17 turnovers, the Rebels didn’t do themselves any favors in this close game, a stat that usually isn’t quite so forgiving.
While missed free throws and turnovers may not seem like a big deal in the moment, too many of them can pile up leading to a loss. During the regular season, when you lose there’s always another game and a chance to redeem yourselves. When tournament time rolls around, there are no second chances. The Rebels have to beat whoever is put in front of them at this point. If the Rebels win tonight, they will face Arkansas on Friday, where a win may mean a berth in the NCAA tournament, but Andy Kennedy must keep his team focused on one game at a time.
The Tigers finished the regular season with a 2-16 conference record, which made their victory over Auburn all the more surprising. The SEC tournament has its ways of bringing out the best in each team, so anything can happen. The Rebels need to prepare to treat Missouri the same way they would prepare for any other team in the conference to avoid a disappointing end to the 2017 season. Missouri’s coach Kim Anderson was let go earlier in the week and is coaching until his team is eliminated. His players will play hard for their coach as his time at Missouri concludes, so don’t count the Tigers out just yet.
Tip-off from Bridgestone Arena is set for 8:30 p.m., and the game will be broadcasted on the SEC Network and the Ole Miss Radio Network. The WatchESPN app will stream the game, and OleMissSports.com will have the radio broadcast as well.
Steven Gagliano is a writer for HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.