Ole Miss defeats South Carolina, 75-70, on Senior Day
OXFORD, Miss. – Ole Miss threw the first punch. Then, South Carolina retaliated with a hit of its own in the second half, making the Rebels’ regular season college basketball finale one to remember.
It was a heavyweight bout between two teams fighting for seeding in the conference tournament, as well as for postseason hopes. But in the end, the Rebels would be the last team standing, largely due to much-needed baskets from senior forward Sebastian Saiz, Breein Tyree, and Justas Furmanavicius in the final seconds of the game that gave Ole Miss the 75-70 victory over the Gamecocks.
The win came on Senior Day for Rasheed Brooks and Saiz.
Saiz recorded his 19th double-double on the season with 21 points and 15 rebounds. Tyree added 19. Furmanavicius notched 12.
With the win, Ole Miss (19-12, 10-8) leads the series over the Gamecocks, 19-18. The Rebels also locked up the No. 6 spot in next week’s SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament. South Carolina (22-9, 12-6) drops to the No. 4 seed with the loss, with Arkansas taking the No. 3 seed.
Ole Miss is 13-2 all-time in Oxford against South Carolina, and the home team has won 15 of the last 18 meetings.
“I’m equally disappointed in our team, and extremely happy for Andy and his team,” South Carolina’s head coach Frank Martin said.
“I have no idea why no one is mentioning Ole Miss as a team that has a chance of making the NCAA Tournament. I have no idea. If they played in any other league in the country right now, they would be one of those teams being spoken about being in the NCAA Tournament.”
Frank Martin, South Carolina head coach
Currently, the Rebels’ have a 2-9 record against the RPI Top 50 and a 5-12 record against the RPI Top 100. But Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy absolutely believes his Rebels can make the NCAA tournament. They just need to take care of business and do well in the SEC Tournament coming up this week.
“The reality is that our numbers don’t dictate we are a NCAA Tournament team, but guess what? Our numbers aren’t complete. We still got an opportunity to improve upon those. I hope that is exactly what we do when we get to Nashville.”
Fight to the finish
Ole Miss built its lead to 51-31 early in the second half and seemed set for an easy win. However, after Terence Davis picked up his fourth foul plus a technical, the tide seemed to turn and what once looked to be a sure Rebels’ victory turned into a heavyweight bout against one of the elite teams in the SEC.
Thornwell led the Gamecocks back by scoring the team’s next 10 points, finishing with a game-high 25 points. Two layups by P.J. Dozier and Maik Kotsar had South Carolina down only 54-45, its first single-digit deficit since 40-31 in the first half. A possession later, Hassani Gravett drained a 3 from the corner to make it 54-48.
Dozier finished with 13 points; Gravett and Duane Notice each had 10.
The Gamecocks got within four on three different occasions but Ole Miss had an answer on the scoring end. After Gravett’s layup made it 60-56, Neal’s three-pointer and Saiz’s layup pushed the Rebels’ lead back up to nine.
Kennedy’s team converted on 24 of 52 shots, including going 8 of 17 from 3-point range. Ole Miss made 16 of 28 from the field in the first half to take the 42-31 lead at halftime.
Strong start for the Rebels
The Rebels started to run away from the Gamecocks in the final four minutes of the first half, with two straight 3s by Neal plus one free throw by Furmanavicius that built Ole Miss’ lead to ten points, 38-28, with 2:32 left in the first half.
Tyree made two jumpers in the final 1:28 to give Ole Miss its biggest lead of the half. Tyree and Saiz had 13 and 11 points, respectively, at halftime. Thornwell had 11 to lead the Gamecocks, who shot 36 percent from the field four nights after they made only 17 of 50 shots in their 63-57 victory over Mississippi State.
South Carolina led only three times in the first half.
Preseason predictions are wrong….again
Ole Miss was predicted to finish ninth in the SEC this year by the media. The Rebels finished tied for fifth in the league.
- The Rebels shot 30.9 percent from the field and were in foul trouble in their first meeting this season against South Carolina, but they had a better showing in both areas in the second meeting. Ole Miss was 46% from the field and 47% from beyond the arc in the win.
- Ole Miss is 11-3 when leading at the half.
- Ole Miss out-rebounded South Carolina, 41-35, with 32 of those 41 coming on the defensive end.
- Ole Miss finished with 23 points from the bench, while the Gamecocks only had 8.
- Ole Miss led for 34:10 of the game.
- The Gamecocks weren’t successful at the free throw line like they were against Mississippi State. South Carolina made only 15 of 24 from the charity stripe.
- South Carolina was 30% from long range.
- The Gamecocks grabbed 21 points from Ole Miss turnovers.
Both teams will prepare for next week’s SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament in Nashville, TN.