The Rebels returned from Starkville with a hard-earned victory over the rival Mississippi State Bulldogs. It took overtime, but the Rebels were able to come out on top by the final score of 87-82. The Rebels didn’t play perfect, as it seemed they did everything they could to let the Bulldogs tie the game in the final seconds of regulation, but a win is a win.
A low scoring first half saw the Rebels trailing 25-23. After shooting a mere 24 percent from the floor, the Rebels needed to find their rhythm fast. They were able to do so, shooting much more efficiently in the second half at 48 percent. The Bulldogs continued to hang around, as the Rebels were unable to build a significant lead. With 3:37 remaining, the Rebels found themselves up 61-52, but State clawed their way back.
Full court pressure and an aggressive style of offense put the Rebels on their heels, and with a jump ball forced with 7 seconds remaining, the possession arrow favored Mississippi State. A perfectly executed play led to an I.J. Ready layup that tied the game at 67-67. A 3-pointer from freshman PG Brein Tyree opened the scoring and set the tone in OT. State went cold from the field and were unable to keep pace the Rebels. Up 9 with 2:15 remaining, the game became a slow moving foul shot contest. When it was all said and done, the Rebels were able to make their free throws and keep the Bulldogs tamed for the remainder of OT.
Leading scorers Terence Davis and Deandre Burnett struggled from the floor combined for just 22 points, but freshman PG Brein Tyree picked up the slack. Tyree finished with a career-high 24 points, including three rim-rattling dunks over Bulldog defenders. Tyree’s 3-pointer to begin the OT period set the tone as the Rebels pulled away. Sebastian Saiz returned to form after struggling against Arkansas. Saiz finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds.
Tyree’s performance wasn’t without faults; he led the team with 7 turnovers. The Rebels struggled as a team holding on to the ball, finishing with 21 turnovers. This has been an area of concern for the Rebels all season long, and with just three games remaining, they’ll have to hold on to the basketball to help their chances of winning out.
The Rebels (17-11) can reach 20 wins for the ninth time under Andy Kennedy if they’re able to defeat their three remaining opponents. While 20 wins is a great accomplishment, teams are judged on reaching the NCAA tournament. If the Rebels don’t win out, the odds of them making the tournament are slim to none. Even if they do win out, it’s likely that they must advance deep into the SEC tournament to make an impression on the committee. With the win over Mississippi State, the Rebels are now above .500 in the conference at 8-7. The Rebels currently rank at 67 in the RPI and are 0-4 against top 25 teams. Ole Miss has earned just two wins over RPI top 50 teams (Tennessee and Vanderbilt). Early season losses to MTSU, UGA and Virginia Tech will certainly hurt the Rebels chances as well.
The Rebels next action is at home on Saturday against the Missouri Tigers (7-20). The Tigers are just 2-13 in the SEC and fell to the Rebels earlier in the season. This is a very winnable game, as long as Ole Miss doesn’t take them lightly. A trip to Tuscaloosa follows for a matchup with Alabama (16-10), the first of the season between the two teams. The Rebels will finish the regular season with a home game against South Carolina (20-8), whom the Rebels lost to in their first meeting this season.
Steven Gagliano is a writer for HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.