Ole Miss rallies from 17 down to beat BYU
It’s all about surviving and advancing during this time of year in college basketball and the Ole Miss Rebels were in need of a miracle Tuesday night, trailing by 17 to the BYU Cougars after the first 20 minutes of their NCAA Tournament play-in game.
Ole Miss (21-12) had been in this situation before, down 17 to Coastal Carolina back on Dec. 18, 2014. The Rebels rallied in the second half for the 71-68 win at home in that game, but could they do so against a team as talented as BYU? They were in need of some help and fortunately didn’t have to look far with 5-foot-10 junior guard Stefan Moody stroking it from the outside and 6-foot-10 senior forward M.J. Rhett hammering it on the inside.
Moody had a team-high 26 points and made 10 of his 18 shots to give Ole Miss the 94-90 victory over BYU (25-10) and send the Rebels into a Thursday afternoon showdown against sixth-seeded Xavier.
Trying to keep up with the fast tempo of the Cougars wasn’t an easy task for the Rebels, but they found a way to compensate for a rough start in the first half by slowing the game down and pounding the basketball inside in the second period.
A tale of two halves
Ole Miss trailed for the majority of the game–31:12 to be exact–and its off-balance offense was a big reason why. The Rebels shot 30 percent (12-of-40) in the first 20 minutes, but dug deep in the second half, shooting 60 percent from the floor to outscore BYU 62-41. Yes, the Rebels scored 62 points in the second half.
BYU’s phenomenal shooter Tyler Haws remained steady in the second half, scoring 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting. He finished with a game-high 33 points. Chase Fischer, who lit up the Rebel defense for 17 first-half points, shot 2-of-7 from the field for only six points in the second half and finished with 23.
Outside of Moody, power forward M.J. Rhett was clutch, helping Ole Miss on its 15-2 run in the middle of the second half as it took its first lead at 70-68. Rhett fouled out late in the game, but finished with 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting.
With neither team wanting to make an early exit from the tournament, they traded baskets for 4 ½ minutes. BYU’s scoring machine Haws tied the game at 82 off a 17-footer. He later drained a three, with his defender draped all over him, to pull the Cougars within three (93-90) with five seconds left in the game, but they would get no closer before the final buzzer.
Senior guard Jarvis Summers topped off his team’s amazing comeback by making the second of two free throws with three seconds left on the clock. He finished with 11 points. Martavious Newby, LaDarius White, and Sebastian Saiz each added 10, giving the Rebels six players who finished in double figures on the night.
Rough Beginnings for Ole Miss
In the early minutes of the first half, Ole Miss quickly zoomed in on BYU’s scoring tandem of Tyler Haws and Kyle Collinsworth, though neither of the players got off to a very smooth start. Instead, it was guard Chase Fischer who scored the Cougars’ first eight points to start the game.
Once coach Andy Kennedy saw how quickly BYU’s high-powered offense emerged, he called the game’s first timeout. After the timeout, the Cougars didn’t relinquish their lead and the Rebels looked to their leading scorer, Stefan Moody, to mount a comeback. Moody scored Ole Miss’ next nine points to pull his team to within 25-21 with 7:50 to go, but it wasn’t enough to keep up with BYU’s up-tempo offense.
When the first half came to an end, Moody had 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting to lead the Rebels, but his supporting cast was fairly non-existent at that point. They were a combined 8-of-31 from the field going into the halftime locker room.
BYU’s Collinsworth, who tied the record for most double-doubles in a single season, went to the bench in the middle of the first half after tweaking his right knee and wouldn’t return until the second period. When he did re-enter the game, he scored only eight points. With Collinsworth out for the rest of the first half, Haws, the Cougars’ leading scorer at 22.9 points per game, took charge on offense, connecting on a short jumper then a transition three to put BYU up 44-29.
Haws had 19 after the first 20 minutes and Fischer added 17. The Cougars went 10-of-15 from 3-point range in the first half, with the duo of Haws and Fischer making seven of them.
Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy definitely had his work cut out for him with his team down by so much at halftime:
“We wanted to show that we belonged here. I challenged our guys to show that we are worthy of this selection. There are a lot of quality teams in college basketball that don’t have this opportunity, so let’s go show that we’re worthy, and we did that.” Andy Kennedy
Unlike the 21 turnovers Ole Miss committed in its loss to South Carolina in the SEC Tournament last week, the Rebels committed just seven against BYU–with the Cougars scoring zero points as a result. On the other hand, BYU committed 15 turnovers in the game with Ole Miss scoring a whopping 25 points off of them.
The Rebels came out strong in the second half and never looked back. M.J. Rhett scored 14 of his 20 points in the second half. “We wanted to attack the paint as much as we could because our jump shots weren’t falling in the first half,” he said. “We kept attacking and getting to the rim, and that’s what we did.”
(Featured image courtesy of: Joe Robbins, Getty Images.)