COLUMBIA, Mo. — After the Rebels’ 80-76 loss to the Kentucky Wildcats on Tuesday, Ole Miss fans anxiously awaited Saturday’s matchup against Missouri, hoping for the Rebels 20th win of the season—a win which would likely seal the deal for an NCAA Tournament appearance.
(Click here for box score.)
As it turned out, the Ole Miss faithful had to wait until the closing seconds of the game before they could breathe more easily. With 4.8 seconds remaining in the contest, senior leader Terence Davis buried two free throws to seal a 73-68 Rebels’ victory.
Ole Miss improves to 20-11 (10-8 SEC) while Missouri falls to 14-16 (5-13 SEC). The Rebels now head to the SEC tournament in Nashville as the No. 7 seed and will face the No. 10 seed Alabama Crimson Tide Thursday, March 14.
In the first ten minutes of the game, Ole Miss jumped on the Tigers, 17-10, and it looked as if the Rebels might cruise to an easy victory. Head coach Kermit Davis’ team attacked the rim and suffocated the Tigers defensively in the early going.
However, Missouri inched back into the game by moving the ball and hitting open jumpers. The Tigers slowed down the tempo and were efficient on offense, patiently waiting for open shots—of which they took full advantage.
Ole Miss wasn’t playing bad defense; the Tigers were simply hitting tough shots.
Missouri ended the final four minutes of the first half on a 14-6 run that gave the Tigers a 34-26 lead. That margin soared as high as 11—all while Missouri’s best player, Jordan Geist, sat out the final minutes of the half with three fouls.
In the first half, the Ole Miss offense appeared stagnant at times—with only one assist to Missouri’s seven. At the break, Missouri was shooting a blistering 71% (5-7) from beyond the arc, while the Rebels were struggling at 1-8 from deep.
By game’s end, however, the Tigers’ long-range shooting had cooled to 47% (8-17) and the Rebels had held Missouri to four points in the final 3:30 of the game.
Public (Rebel) Enemy Number One
Freshman Xavier Pinson was the driving force for Mizzou’s offense as he shot 8-12 from the field and 2-5 from 3-point range for a total of 20 points.
Pinson, who only averages 5.9 points per game, scored or assisted on the Tigers’ final 14 first-half points. Pinson was effective because of his ability to slash into the lane and create open looks for his teammates, causing defensive breakdowns from the Rebels.
Ole Miss simply did not have an answer for him.
When the second half began, the Rebels slowly sliced away at Missouri’s lead, finally pulling ahead, 60-59, after a Breein Tyree three.
In the second half, Ole Miss’ 1-3-1 half-court traps gave the Tigers trouble which led to turnovers and transition points.
As a result of its attempt to slow down the tempo, Mizzou was forced into taking ill-advised shots. The Rebels’ defensive intensity created scoring opportunities in transition and sped up the game, causing Missouri to play into Ole Miss’ style of basketball.
The Rebels forced 10 second-half turnovers while committing only three. The Tigers mustered only two assists in the second half.
Shuler takes over
Game MVP Devontae Shuler took over in the second half by shooting 5-7 from field along with two 3-pointers. He finished the game 7-9 from the field with 18 points, 3 steals, 4 assists, and 2 rebounds—along with a vicious slam.
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) March 9, 2019
T.D. back for another poster
If you think Shuler’s dunk was electric, take a look at Terence Davis’ posterization over Mizzou’s Jeremiah Tilmon, which also drew a foul. Davis nailed the free throw and evened the game at 66-66.
Without a doubt, this will be another #SCTop10 dunk for Davis.
— Brad Logan (@BradLoganCOTE) March 9, 2019
Rebels notch much-needed victory
With 1:28 to play, Shuler soared into the lane in transition, dropping in a layup that gave the Rebels a 68-66 lead.
On the following possession, Shuler drilled a tough shot from the elbow to extend the Rebels’ lead to 70-66 with 52 seconds remaining. After free throws from Tyree and Davis, along with a huge block from Bruce Stevens, Ole Miss escaped with a 73-68 victory.
Next up: Alabama
On Thursday, March 14, the Ole Miss Rebels will face the Alabama Crimson Tide in Nashville at 6:00 p.m. (CT) in the second round of the SEC Tournament.
Click here for the full schedule.