The Ole Miss basketball team came close to pulling the upset over #5 Baylor on Saturday but fell to the Bears 78-75. The Rebels didn’t trail the Bears until just over 10 minutes remained in the second half, and the two teams traded blows till the final whistle. The Rebels can put Saturday’s loss behind them tonight when Mississippi State comes to the Pavilion tonight to renew the in-state rivalry.
On Saturday, the Rebels played with an energy that proves they can compete against the nation’s best teams. Along with the energy must come consistency, which they Rebels struggled to find against the Bears. Shooting 45 percent in the first half was followed by a drop to just 33 percent in the second half, and the Rebels 7-point lead disappeared.
A point guard must prove that they can be trusted to handle the ball in crucial moments of the game, and freshman Breein Tyree showed he could do just that on Saturday. Tyree kept defenders guessing with his ball-handling skills and was able to make defenders pay both at the basket and beyond the arc. Tyree finished with 20 points as leading scorer Deandre Burnett struggled with just 4 points. Tyree may be starting the catch up to the speed of the game at the college level, and he may just be getting started showing the Rebels what he’s capable of.
Sebastian Siaz scored the Rebels first 8 points on his way to a 20-point and 10-rebound double-double. Cullen Neal scored 13 points, but when the Rebels trailed 75-72 with under a minute to play a costly turnover all but dashed the Rebels chances at tying the game late. The Rebels must avoid beating themselves from here on out to have a chance at postseason play.
For two games in a row, the Rebels have been outmanned in the middle, resulting in being out-rebounded by Baylor 37-27. Also noticeable was the Rebels reliance on the 1-3-1 defense, which the Bears were able to figure out. Baylor shot 53 percent in the second half, and were able to find a spot in the corner for wide open threes. Andy Kennedy may need to ask his team to man-up tonight against the Bulldogs, especially down the stretch. The zone worked at times, helping the Rebels force 17 turnovers, but Kennedy needs to know when to switch out of it to avoid being figured out.
The Bulldogs come in with a 13-7 overall record with a 4-4 conference record. Mississippi State has lost two of their last three, but I’m sure they’re ready to put that stretch behind them with a win in a rivalry game. Noticeably missing from this year’s Bulldog squad is Malik Newman, who transferred to Kansas after his freshman season at Mississippi State. Quinndary Weatherspoon has taken over the role of leading scorer in Starkville, averaging 17.6 PPG. Neither the Rebels or the Bulldogs are where they would like to be at this point of the season, so tonight one team will get back on track, and the other’s tournament dreams will continue to fade.
Tonight’s game will tip-off at 6 p.m. at the Pavilion, and can also be seen on the SEC Network or the Watch ESPN app. The game can be heard Ole Miss Radio Network and OleMissSports.com.
Steven Gagliano is a writer for HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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