OXFORD, Miss. – Ole Miss fought hard but lost a 78-75 heartbreaker to No. 5 Baylor on Saturday at The Pavilion in the Big 12-SEC Challenge.
Rebels’ freshman guard Breein Tyree finished with a career-high 20 points, 18 of which came in the second half, while senior Sebastian Saiz notched another double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
After the game, Baylor head coach Scott Drew had nothing but praise for Saiz.
“We started to double him and make it tougher for him to get the ball. On film, I don’t think it does him justice. Watching him in person, he’s even better than on film and coming into the game we had a lot of respect for him. He is a heck of a player.”
Scott Drew on Ole Miss senior Sebastian Saiz
Ole Miss led by as many as 15 points in the first half; however, Baylor (20-1) played like the top-five team it is, rallying to win its fifth straight contest.
In the early going, Ole Miss (12-9) dominated the Bears due, in large part, to the 1-3-1 zone defense the Rebels were running. Ole Miss took a 42-35 lead into intermission.
In the second half, though, the Bears made some adjustments and shot 53.8 percent (14 of 26) from the field.
Speaking in the post game press conference, head coach Andy Kennedy addressed one of the main reasons for his Rebels’ loss to Baylor: rebounding.
“This is the second game in a row at home where we get destroyed on the glass. You’re not going to win against a good team when you’re down 16 on the glass. You’re not going to beat the second-ranked team in the country in that regard especially when they shoot 54% and you shoot 33% in the second half.”
With 10:25 remaining, Baylor took its first lead to go up 56-54–and the game was a nail biter from that point on. The Rebels only trailed by three, 75-72, when the Bears’ Manu Lecomte drained a 3-pointer that gave the visitors a 78-72 lead with 23 seconds left in the game.
Lecomte’s clutch 3-pointer, combined with a few untimely turnovers late in the game by the Rebels, sealed the win for Baylor. The Bears out-rebounded the Rebels 37-27, finishing with a 24-16 advantage on the defensive boards and a 13-11 lead on the offensive side.
Lecomte finished with a team-high 17 points for Baylor, shooting 6 of 9 from the field, including 5 of 6 from 3-point range. Johnathan Motley and Jo Lual-Acuil, Jr. each added 16 points and 9 rebounds.
In addition to the 20 points apiece from Tyree and Saiz, the Rebels’ Cullen Neal finished with 13 points while Terence Davis, who fouled out with 6:26 remaining in the game, added 9 and Justas Furmanavicius notched 7.
Ole Miss takes on Mississippi State (13-7) Tuesday, January 31, at 6:00 p.m. (SECN) in The Pavilion at Ole Miss.
(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)