Despite a solid first half, the Ole Miss men’s basketball team was unable to survive an offensive burst from Missouri out of the break, ultimately falling to the Tigers, 72-60, in the first round of the SEC Tournament to wrap up the 2021-22 season on Wednesday night.
The Rebels (13-19, 4-14 SEC) came out of the gates in Tampa ready to battle, turning the ball over just once while recording four steals to head to the break tied, but an 11-0 run by Mizzou to open the second half helped give the Tigers a buffer that Ole Miss was unable to overcome. Missouri (12-20, 6-13 SEC) held a plus-12 rebounding margin and received strong outings from Kobe Brown (16 points) and Ronnie DeGray III (14 points) that helped push the Tigers over the top.
“Give Missouri a lot of credit, they played well all three times against us,” said Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis. “I thought that we came out and our biggest lead was five with about maybe 5:30 to go in the first half, but then we’ve just been really challenged all year long with finishing halves and starting second halves, and that kind of reared its head up tonight. I thought we had some good spots of physical play, but in the end their team beat us by 12 on the boards, played physical in the paint, and tonight they just played really well and I thought they were extremely competitive in the second half.”
From the opening tip the game proved to be a slugfest, with both teams trading blows throughout the first half. Rebel senior Jarkel Joiner would duel with Missouri’s Ronnie DeGray III to open the night, with each finishing in double-digit scoring at the halftime buzzer for their efforts.
Despite Joiner helping the Rebels gain as big of a lead as five points at the 5:57 mark of the opening frame, DeGray and the Tigers responded down the stretch to send both teams to the locker room on even pegging with the score tied 32-32.
To open the second half, the Tigers came out of the gates on a mission, opening the frame on a 13-2 run over the first 4:23 of play, including an 11-0 run from 17:59 to 14:08. With this early Tigers push, the Rebels fell back into a deficit that they wouldn’t be able to overcome.
Even with Matthew Murrell dropping 11 second half points, foul trouble quickly became an issue for the Rebels, allowing the Tigers to maintain their double-digit advantage until the game’s final buzzer. A total of four Rebels would end the game with three or more fouls on the night, including forward Luis Rodriguez fouling out for Ole Miss.
Leading the way for the Rebels scoring the ball was Matthew Murrell, ended with 16 points on. Also finishing in double-digit scoring for Ole Miss was Jarkel Joiner, as the senior logged 13 points and a team-high three steals.
The loss wraps up a difficult season for the Rebels, who were battered by untimely injuries and poor luck despite flashes of brilliance. Ole Miss took down No. 18 Memphis on Dec. 4 in the midst of a 9-4 non-conference season, again beat a ranked team on the road at No. 25 LSU, and nearly had multiple ranked upsets against the likes of No. 18 Tennessee and No. 4 Auburn, but season-ending injuries to freshman star Daeshun Ruffin and key veteran backup Robert Allen, in addition to a lengthy injury to Jarkel Joiner and multiple spells of illness throughout the team, ended up hampering the campaign for the Rebels.
“You know, I think this is, I don’t know, 38 or 39 years in college basketball, and it’s probably the most uniquely challenged with some of the guys that we’ve lost,” Davis said. “Every loss is just excruciating to us and our players because it wasn’t – we envisioned us to be an NCAA Tournament team, and I still think that, no excuses, that we’re whole. I know we sure did not look like one tonight.”
As it stands, Ole Miss is only poised to lose graduate transfer Nysier Brooks and John McBride, with senior Jarkel Joiner testing the waters professionally before deciding if he will forego his final year of eligibility. Others set to return for Ole Miss include top SEC scorer Matthew Murrell and fellow starters Jaemyn Brakefield, Tye Fagan and Luis Rodriguez.
“You know, last year we swept Auburn and Kentucky, and we won the fourth most games in this league, and you think about both those teams now have a chance to win the national championship,” Davis said. “You can get well in a hurry. We’re going to get well in a hurry. This is not what we came to Ole Miss to do, and you can get well in a hurry.”
“We’re going to work day and night to get this thing flipped next year, and they’ve given us every resource to be successful at Ole Miss, so it’s right on us,” Davis concluded. “We’re going to go out and put together a roster that the Ole Miss fans can be proud of, and we’re going to be right here next year hopefully playing for seeding in the NCAA Tournament.”
Courtesy of Ole Miss Athletics