OXFORD, Miss. – Ole Miss was able to grind out a win over in-state rival Mississippi State 64-58 to move the Rebels to 2-1 in conference play. The win also marked head coach Andy Kennedy’s 100th SEC win since being hired as head coach in 2006. The Rebels and Bulldogs have met 257 time and are the SEC’s most-played rivalry.
Deandre Burnett and Breein Tyree led the Rebels in scoring, combining for a total of 37 points, with 21 and 16 respectfully.
The Rebels struggled from the field in the first half, shooting a mere 20 percent (3-15) from deep and 29 percent (9-31) overall, yet they managed to keep within striking distance with a score of 34-28 going into the break. This is especially impressive considering the Bulldogs shot a much more efficient 50 percent (5-10) from the 3-point line and nearly 40 percent (13-33) from the field.
“I thought early in the first half we weren’t taking particularly good shots,” Kennedy said. “Obviously we struggled shooting the ball.”
Ole Miss fought back to start the second half, cutting the deficit to just one point. However, Mississippi State would extend its lead to as high as nine.
“I thought it was a great sign of maturity to be able to continue battle and get stops when we’re just having empty possession after empty possession.” Kennedy said.
With 10 minutes left in regulation, Bruce Stevens hit a big 3-pointer to cut the Bulldog lead to eight. Ole Miss would go on to finish the game on a 22-8 run to seal the victory.
“Stevens is a really good 3-point shooter. That’s his second one I think, but I’ve seen him make a few more.”
Andy Kennedy on Bruce Stevens
Terence Davis had another off night. The Rebels’ leading scorer entering the game, Davis finished Saturday’s contest with two points (1-13, 0-8), which is his lowest scoring output of the season.
“We’re with him, we love him,” Tyree said. “Just keep shooting.”
Tyree came alive for the Rebels in the second half. After going scoreless in the first half (0-3), he exploded in the final 20 minutes for 16 points (6-9, 2-4), including the game winning layup with 15 seconds left.
“It’s so good for him to put together back to back good games,” Kennedy said. “I need his voice out there on the court.”
Defense a major factor for Rebels
Defense was a major factor in the game. Ole Miss forced 14 Bulldog turnovers while only giving it away seven times. Devontae Shuler and Dominik Olejnizak were huge on the defensive end for the Rebels. Shuler racked up three steals, while Olejniczak was able to get two steals of his own to go along with a block. Shuler now ranks fourth in the SEC in total steals.
“We’re a defensive team, we pride ourselves on locking up,” Tyree said.
“When shots aren’t falling we’re just gonna pick it up on the defensive end.”
Ole Miss guard Breein Tyree
Ole Miss has now won eight of the last nine against the Bulldogs, which ties the longest winning streak in school history set between 1980 and 1983. Ole Miss will face off against Auburn, in Auburn on Tuesday.