OXFORD, Miss. – After they struggled in a loss to Middle Tennessee State earlier this week, the Ole Miss men’s basketball team knew things needed to get better quickly.
In that Wednesday game against the Blue Raiders, the Rebels scored only 19 points in the first half, and head coach Andy Kennedy felt it was critical to see improvement in his team. After watching game film from the 77-62 loss to MTSU, Kennedy believed it was a must for Ole Miss to get a win against Memphis to better its chances of making the NCAA Tournament come March.
That’s exactly what the Rebels did at The Pavilion Saturday afternoon as they defeated Memphis 85-77. (Click here for Box Score.)
Ole Miss led for all of the first half, though the Rebels lost the lead for a moment in the second half. After a couple of adjustments, however, Ole Miss (6-2) found a way – in a game filled with 49 fouls – to rally back to defeat the Tigers (6-2).
Senior forward Sebastian Saiz led Ole Miss with 20 points and 16 rebounds, which is his 13th career double-double.
Kennedy’s group will get another opportunity to improve its tournament resume with a win at Virginia Tech next Saturday. The Ole Miss head coach was glad to see his team get the win after he altered the starting lineup by inserting freshman Breein Tyree at point guard, sophomore Terence Davis at small forward, and junior Marcanvis Hymon at power forward.
“It’s nice to grow with a win, especially in a rivalry game that’s important to a lot of Ole Miss people. I wish it would have went a little smoother but, quite frankly, we probably needed that.”
Andy Kennedy on the win over Memphis
The Rebels trailed for about four minutes in the second half, allowing Memphis to gain momentum on a 19-5 run to take the Tigers’ first lead of the game at 58-57. Memphis would increase its lead to 62-57 off a fast break dunk by Markel Crawford; however, the Tigers’ last lead came at 68-65 with 6:46 left when Ole Miss rallied back.
The turning point for the Rebels started when Memphis’ Chad Rykhoek fouled Saiz on a 3-point shot attempt. Saiz made all three free throws to tie the game 68-all. On the Rebels’ next offensive possession, Davis went for the 360 dunk on the fast break but didn’t convert due to the foul committed by Jimario Rivers.
“I thought we had them in good position to pull away,” Memphis first-year head coach Tubby Smith said. “When you’re on the road, you have to play a lot smarter. But I loved our effort, our energy and the attitude our guys displayed today.”
Davis went to the charity stripe and made both foul shots to give Ole Miss the 70-68 lead; Memphis wouldn’t get it back as the Rebels used a 20-3 run to bury the Tigers. Redshirt junior Deandre Burnett’s two made foul shots with 33 seconds left sealed the win for Ole Miss.
Burnett finished with 19 points. Cullen Neal had 12 with his biggest shot coming at the 3:07 mark to push the Rebels’ lead to 81-69. Both teams shot 43 percent from the field. Ole Miss made up for it from the line, going 28 for 33.
“I thought our guys really responded the way you would hope they would,” said Kennedy, who’s now 3-2 in his career against Memphis, including a 3-1 mark at Ole Miss.
Rebels start with hot first-half
The Rebels never trailed the Tigers in the first half thanks to hot shooting. After Memphis closed its deficit to one (27-26), Ole Miss reeled off 10 points to extend its lead to 37-26. Saiz had 13 points in the first half to lead the Rebels. Neal had nine in the opening period, with three of those points coming towards the final seconds before the break to give Ole Miss the 47-37 lead at halftime.
Ole Miss held the Tigers to 42.6 percent shooting from the field, which was below Memphis’ season average of 49 percent. Sophomore forward Dedric Lawson finished with eight points and six rebounds, while his brother, K.J. Lawson, led the Tigers with 17 points on 8 of 18 shooting.
Crawford added 16, while Jeremiah Martin tallied 14.
Dedric Lawson spent a lot of time on the bench due to foul trouble, finishing with four personals. “He did it to himself. He was on the bench for most of the first half,” Smith said of Lawson.
“I think a lot of that had to do with breakdown on the perimeter where guys get beat off the dribble. Post men have to come over and help, and he’s in foul trouble. So, that’s pretty much what happened.”
Rebels with Memphis connections
Several Ole Miss basketball players have ties to the Bluff City, including two players who call Memphis home. Junior forward Marcanvis Hymon (Whitehaven) and sophomore guard Donte Fitzpatrick-Dorsey (Southwind) both played high school ball in Memphis, while sophomore guard Terence Davis (Southaven) played just across the state line in Southaven, Mississippi.
Senior guard Rasheed Brooks played two seasons at Southwest Community College in Memphis. Assistant coach Tony Madlock was a four-year letterwinner for the Tigers from 1988-92 and helped Memphis reach the NCAA Tournament twice as a three-year starter.
Saiz on Davis’ 360 dunk attempt
“I don’t know,” Saiz said while laughing about the dunk. “I have no idea. I’m glad he made both free throws, though. That’s going to be ‘Shaqtin’-A-Fool’, I guess.”
Ole Miss will be in action Sunday, December 11 when the Rebels take on Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia at 11:00 a.m. (CT). The game will be televised by ESPNU.
(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)