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Ole Miss Takes Down Mississippi State on the Road, 64-46

Ole Miss Takes Down Mississippi State on the Road, 64-46

It had to be this game. It had to be against State in Starkville. The Ole Miss men’s basketball team bounced back in a big way from a three-game losing streak to the tune of a 64-46 win over the arch-rival Bulldogs Tuesday night.

(Click here for box score.)

The Rebels entered Tuesday night’s game having lost five of their last six. Some fans and media had begun to hit the panic button, but Coach Davis and his squad had other plans. They hit practice hard after Saturday’s tough loss at home to Georgia. They did not hang their heads; they just pushed through.

A rivalry game on the road with a chance to turn your season around is something akin to a Hollywood script, and the Rebels wanted to take advantage.

State entered the contest in fourth place in SEC play, boasting a 7-2 record at home; however, it would be Ole Miss who would emerge victorious in this one. The Rebels (7-6, 2-4) owned the pace of the contest and the defense caused State (9-6, 4-3) discomfort all night long.

First half action

On the opening tip, both teams started out cold and shots fell few and far between.  At the 10:07 mark, Ole Miss found itself down, 10-11, but not discouraged, as the offense would go on a two minute, 8-0 run that would thrust the Rebels into the lead for the rest of the first half.

I thought the turning point was when we had Robert (Allen), Matt (Murrell), Devontae, Sammy (Hunter) and Dimencio out there.

Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis

The story of the first half would come from none other than Devontae Shuler. The senior dominated on both ends, notching 12 points, three rebounds, and three steals. The Rebels would get seven points off the break in the first half, four of which would be created by Shuler, himself.

Ole Miss would take a 29-21 lead into the half while holding the Bulldogs to 36% from the field and 14% from beyond.

Coach Davis made a big adjustment this game when instead of going to his patented 1-3-1 defense after a make, he decided to switch to a 2-3 that would force the Bulldogs to be more effective from the perimeter.

Second half action

In the second half, the Bulldogs wouldn’t go away. They started out three-of-five out of intermission and eventually cut the Rebel lead down to four

Ole Miss, however, didn’t want to let go of the lead and that attitude started at the top. Devontae came out strong early in the second, knocking down two early triples to get the Rebel offense going. Others would get involved and Ole Miss would soon go on a devastating run that would stretch the lead to sixteen.

The Bulldogs would fail to score a field goal for seven and a half minutes, and Mississippi State would finish the contest making just two of its last fourteen.

Our team has been close. We had a great two days of preparation for this game. The key was rebounding, [also] a great and experienced guard play from Devontae [Shuler]. K.J. Buffen was terrific with a good play off the bench. It was a really good team win and a really important game. This is the most important game on our schedule being archrivals against [Mississippi] State.

Coach Kermit Davis

The Rebels were led by Shuler who would finish the game with 22 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 steals. It was Shuler’s fifth 20-point game this season. Jarkel Joiner added 12 points and 5 rebounds. Three Ole Miss players would see double-digit minutes off the bench, led by Dimencio Vaughn who added 7 points.

The key for the Rebels in the win was rebounding and, as Coach Davis emphasized, on rebounding out of the zone. Ole Miss won the rebounding battle, 37-31. And speaking of the zone defense, Ole Miss did a terrific job of keeping the ball out of the paint by going into a 2-3 that took away the size advantage the Bulldogs held.

I thought the guards rebounded down. Luis [Rodriguez] had eight rebounds and K.J. [Buffen] with five [rebounds]. We just got the team rebounding. We led with 50-50 balls. We won balls that scrambled and got lost on the floor. We won that in both halves. When you play a physical team like [Mississippi] State, you have to do that.

Coach Kermit Davis

The Bulldogs saw solid production from D.J. Stewart, Jr. who tallied 18 on 7-for-16 shooting. Tolu Smith would add 10 while Iverson Molinar was held to 7 on 3-10 shooting.

Three Takeaways

1. Coach Davis chose size in the game

If you couldn’t tell already, rebounding was important to Coach Davis last night in the game against the Bulldogs. With the bigs on their roster, that’s no wonder. We saw this emphasis reiterated with the players Coach Davis brought in to play minutes. We saw Romello get into some foul trouble which led to a lot of minutes from Khadim Sy. He was joined by Dimencio Vaughn, who Davis praised for his rebounding, and Sammy Hunter early on in the first half.

2. Shuler-time

Shuler added 22 points Tuesday night and has now scored 19 or more in his last three games. But against the Bulldogs, his contributions seemed even greater than normal as he impacted all facets of the game. He made defensive plays that created offense for others, something critical that may not always show up in the stat sheet.

It’s a great feeling, honestly. It’s always good to win. I felt like we went through a stretch of giving up games from the last couple minutes of the game. Us coming out against our rivals and beating them just put us back in the win column. Now, we’re back to the conversation.

Ole Miss guard Devontae Shuler

3. Could this be the spark?

A rivalry game is different. We all know anything can happen, but one has to wonder if this is the spark the Rebels needed to get back on track.

While the last two games resulted in losses, Ole Miss has shown us glimpses of life. The second-half comeback against Georgia showed good energy, although not quite enough to win. I thought Ole Miss competed well against Florida but ultimately didn’t get the victory. We have seen flashes this season, but now it seems the team is pulling it together and is getting good play from their core unit.

“It was a very happy locker room, and the head coach was very happy with them too,” Davis said after the game.

“We needed it. Our guys deserved it based on the preparation. The only time I ever get nervous for the team is if you are not a good practice team and put your head down. This team deserved it. I kept telling the guys, ‘We are two-to-three plays of everybody thinking we are an NCAA Tournament team. We are right there. We have to keep doing what we are doing, and we got better play from more guys tonight,” Davis added.

Next Up

Coach Davis’ team heads back to Oxford to get ready for Saturday’s contest against Texas A&M. Tip-off is set for 2:30 p.m. (CT) and the game will be aired on the SEC Network.

(Feature image credit: Ole Miss Athletics)

About The Author

TJ Oxley

TJ Oxley is a current MBA student at Ole Miss after having earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Toledo. He currently covers college hoops and the NBA Draft for the Basketball Society as well as all things Ole Miss for The Rebel Walk.

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