NASHVILLE, TN. – Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy often says winning and losing games in the Southeastern Conference comes down to players making plays.
In the Rebels’ 81-74 win over Vanderbilt Saturday afternoon, Kennedy’s players made big plays when Ole Miss needed them most.
The Rebels (14-9, 5-5 SEC) used runs of 12-0 and 9-2, plus some big shots down the stretch from Terence Davis, Cullen Neal, and Deandre Burnett, to defeat the Commodores inside historic Memorial Gymnasium and pick up an important league victory.
Five Ole Miss’ players scored in double figures. Burnett and Davis finished with 17 points apiece, while Justas Furmanavicius and Breein Tyree each added 11. Sebastian Saiz finished with 10 points and 16 rebounds, giving the senior forward his 16th double-double of the season.
The Rebels have won six of the last seven meetings against the Commodores, and Andy Kennedy is 4-3 all-time against Vanderbilt in Nashville.
Rebels hot in second-half surge
“We shot 29 percent from the floor in the first half and, honestly, I thought we had decent looks. We had the same looks in the second half, and we had guys step up and knock them down.”
Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy
The Rebels struggled in the first half, making only 9 of 31 shots from the field, but they caught fire in the second half as they made 15 of 27 shots, including 7 of 9 from 3. After trailing 32-27 in the first half, Ole Miss opened up the second half with a 9-2 run to take the 36-34 lead. The Rebels only committed a total of eight turnovers in the game.
However, the stubborn Commodores refused to go away, and Luke Kornet’s dunk, followed by a three-pointer from Matthew Fisher-Davis, quickly gave Vanderbilt (11-12, 4-6) the lead again at 42-36. Burnett made a layup plus two foul shots to tie the game at 42-all, and then Davis’ two shots from the line gave the Rebels the lead for good.
A 12-0 run that was capped off by back-to-back three-pointers from Neal gave Ole Miss its biggest lead of the game at 60-49, but the Commodores didn’t quit. Thanks to two 3’s from Nolan Cressler and Joe Toye, Vandy quickly cut into the Rebels’ lead and got within three at 68-65.
Vanderbilt would get within three once more with 28 seconds left in the game with a long-range three from Kornet that made it 77-74, Ole Miss. But Burnett and Davis made both of their foul shot attempts in the end to seal the victory for the Rebels.
As a team, Ole Miss made 17 of 23 from the foul line in the second half, finishing 24 of 33 for the game.
“We actually shot below our standard today at 73 percent,” Kennedy said about his team’s free throw shooting. “We’re around 74 percent and some change. We made them when we needed to.”
Ole Miss catches fire in second half to overcome slow start to game
The Rebels started the game slowly, while Vanderbilt made just enough shots from the floor to stay out front.
The Commodores took a 32-27 lead into halftime, thanks to their 10 for 24 effort from the field. Jeff Roberson and Kornet scored 18 of Vanderbilt’s 32 points in the first half, and the Commodores took a 19-16 advantage in defensive rebounds into intermission.
Roberson finished with a game-high 21 points and pulled down seven rebounds, while Kornet added 18 on 6 of 11 shooting. Fisher-Davis notched 13 points.
Saiz saw his usual double teams, but he was still able to score seven points and pull down nine rebounds in the first half. Furmanavicius provided seven points in the first half, including two late three-pointers to pull the Rebels within 29-27 before Kornet’s late three pushed Ole Miss’ deficit back to five.
In the second half, however, the Commodores could not withstand the Rebels’ surge on either end of the court, failing to make wide open shots or to get to the foul line. For the game, Vanderbilt shot 44.2 percent (23 of 52) from the floor, including 14 of 39 from the 3-point line.
“I never thought – even in the first half when we had the lead – we played as we were capable of playing,” Commodores’ coach Bryce Drew said. “I thought they (Ole Miss) got really hot. Some of those threes weren’t on the 3-point line and we had a hand in their face.
“You got to credit them (Ole Miss) for making some shots.”
Vanderbilt head coach Bryce Drew
Ole Miss: Not only did the Rebels win the game, but they also won in some important areas on the stat sheet: points in the paint (20-18), points off turnovers (18 -7), second-chance points (9-2), fast break points (8-5), bench points (22-9), and rebounds (41-33). Ole Miss has won three in a row at Memorial Gym. More importantly, the Rebels are .500 or better in league play for the first time this season.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores’ two-game winning streak was snapped on Saturday. Vanderbilt had previously won three of its last four games. Baptiste went scoreless in four minutes of action.
Ole Miss travels to Tennessee on Wednesday (5:30 p.m., SECN).
Commodores travel to Arkansas on Tuesday (7:30 p.m., SECN).
(Feature image credit: Jim Brown, USA TODAY Sports)