OXFORD, Miss. – Any time Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy can leave the court with a victory over Mississippi State, it is special–but it’s even more memorable when it’s his 100th win in the Southeastern Conference.
Asked about his team’s victory over the Bulldogs Saturday night, Kennedy replied:
“I thought it was beautiful, man. When you sit where I sit and you get a win–and you get one against Mississippi State–that’s a beautiful win.“
Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy on the Rebels’ win over State
Breein Tyree’s driving layup with 15 seconds left lifted the Rebels to a 64-58 victory over the Bulldogs and gave Kennedy his hundredth win; it also ended Mississippi State head coach Ben Howland’s five-game winning streak. In the series, Ole Miss (9-6, 2-1 SEC) has won the last eight of nine (four in a row) against MSU.
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For a while, it looked as if the Bulldogs were going to run away with this one, up 50-39 with 10:39 left in the game. But the Rebels never gave up, gradually chipping away at the deficit before eventually taking the lead for the first time at 54-53 since grabbing the lead at 13-12 in the first half off a Tyree free throw.
Tyree and Burnett take over
Tyree tied the game at 53-all off a driving layup. He also drained a 3 two possessions earlier. Before that, Deandre Burnett’s jumper had the Rebels down just two (53-51) before Tyree took over.
Tyree scored four of the team’s final six points, with Burnett’s two foul shots ultimately putting the game away. Burnett finished with a game-high 21 points, making 6 of 10 from the field. Tyree added 16 on 6 for 12 shooting.
“It was huge for him,” Kennedy said of Tyree’s play.
“He has a leadership quality to him. He’s kind of chatty, talks. So it’s so good for him to put together back-to-back good games because I need his voice on that court.”
Andy Kennedy on Breein Tyree’s leadership
Ole Miss went 21 for 62 from the field to finish with a 33.9 shooting percentage.
“It’s hard to play with energy when you aren’t making shots,” Kennedy said. But the Rebels’ coach made it clear he was proud of his team for hanging in the game even when the shots weren’t falling.
“We are really struggling offensively. I thought it was a sign of maturity out of our guys to continue to get stops and battle when you’re having empty possession after empty possession.”
1-3-1 defense works for the Rebels in second half
Ole Miss was outscored 30-24 in the paint, and its 1-3-1 zone allowed MSU to find some nice looks from 3-point range in the first half. The Bulldogs made 5 of 10 from deep, and held a 33-20 lead following Eli Wright’s 3 from the left wing in front of the Rebels’ bench.
MSU’s 12-0 run started with Lamar Peters’ jumper, then Quinndary Weatherspoon made a layup plus a free throw. Nick Weatherspoon scored four straight points before Wright’s long range jumper forced Kennedy to take a timeout. After the timeout, the Rebels went on a 6-0 run that closed the gap to 33-26. State held a 34-28 lead at halftime.
However, in the second half, Ole Miss’ 1-3-1 zone forced MSU to take more jump shots than it wanted. In the final period, the Bulldogs made just 9 of 30 shots from the field, including going 0 for 13 from 3. MSU made 13 for 33 shots in the first half. The Rebels’ pressure helped their offense outscore their State, 36-24 in the second half.
For the game, no MSU player scored in double figures. The Weatherspoon brothers combined to finish with a total of only 16 points on 6 of 22 shooting.
In the game, graduate transfer Markel Crawford fell awkwardly on his back while going for a defensive rebound. He laid on the court for a moment, long enough to that Kennedy left the bench to check on him. Fortunately, Crawford was only suffering from back spasms.
“I was hoping he didn’t hit his head; that’s why I went out and checked,” Kennedy said.
“He fell hard and he’s been having some lower back issues and his back just spasmed on him. Again, I was just making sure he didn’t get concussed because I didn’t see the fall.”
Kennedy on Markel Crawford
Ole Miss travels to Auburn on Tuesday (8 p.m., ESPNU), while Mississippi State travels to Florida on Wednesday (6 p.m., SECN).