Ole Miss dominates No. 10 Missouri, 80-59
OXFORD, Miss. — Ole Miss defeated No. 10 Missouri, 80-59, Wednesday night in The Pavilion, putting on a strong performance in all aspects of the game.
Less than two weeks, ago the Rebels had their backs against the wall. They had just lost consecutive road games to Arkansas and Georgia and found themselves sitting in the bottom four of the SEC after beginning the season with much higher expectations.
But then a top-10 ranked Tennessee came to Oxford, and Ole Miss exhibited stellar defense in a 52-50 win that gave head coach Kermit Davis’ team its first victory over a ranked opponent since 2019.
“We spent a lot of time with our team individually and in groups after (the loss to) Georgia. We did some toughness things, probably more mental stuff. When you beat a team like Tennessee, it gave them that confidence.”
Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis
After the win over the Vols, the Rebels traveled to Auburn where they fought their way back and emerged victorious in an 86-84 overtime contest. Credit senior guard Devontae Shuler for his late-game heroics and Romello White’s efficient performance that led Ole Miss to its second straight win.
And just like that, the feeling was different and the Rebs found their way.
Taking down Missouri
On Wednesday night, Coach Davis and his team had another opportunity for a statement win inside The Pavilion against a Top-10 team. The Missouri Tigers, coming off a big 68-65 win over Alabama on Saturday, entered the game with the Rebels as 2.5-point underdogs.
Going into Wednesday night’s matchup, Ole Miss (11-8, 6-6 SEC) ranked 13th in the league in points in conference games, while Missouri (13-4, 6-4) ranked 9th, per Sports Reference. The Tigers were 12th in the conference in three-point percentage in conference games, while the Rebels were 14th. Based on those two numbers, alone, one would have assumed it fair to say this was going to be another defensive battle.
That certainly was not the case as both teams were incredibly hot to start.
In the first half, the Rebels shot over 61% from the field and 33% from deep. The offense looked really good as they had good spacing and routinely swung the ball around through their offense.
Ole Miss was forced to go to the bench as Romello White picked up early fouls, but they were able to rely on Sammy Hunter for good minutes off the bench. Khadim Sy is out with an injury and is day-to-day.
Devontae. Tough. pic.twitter.com/uhQCIOMd2K
— TJOxley1 (@TJOxley1) February 11, 2021
The Rebels carried a 42-37 lead into halftime and were led in the first period by Jarkel Joiner who went 5-8 from all three levels on the court. On the other side, however, the Tigers also shot really well, making 53% from the field and 50% from deep.
This is really good offense with good spacing pic.twitter.com/kfE37K13GG
— TJOxley1 (@TJOxley1) February 11, 2021
Following intermission, Ole Miss continued its hot shooting, going on a 12-2 run to start the second half.
On the defensive end, the Rebels slowed down Missouri’s key playmakers and that would lead to a twenty-point deficit for the Tigers.
Dru Smith, who in the first half had 11 points on 4-7 shooting, was limited in the second period, starting 1-6 and finishing 2-8. The other big playmaker for the Tigers this season, Xavier Pinson, was also shut down, going 3-11 from the field for the game.
For the Rebels, it appeared as if everything that could go right, did go right. Ole Miss outshot the Tigers, converting 52% of their attempts in the second and seemingly handling everything Missouri threw at them — including a 3/4 court press.
Kermit: "We're playing well at the right time. A lot of basketball ahead. Starting to look like the time we envisioned."
— The Rebel Walk (@TheRebelWalk) February 11, 2021
Joiner led Ole Miss with 21 points on 8-14 shooting with three rebounds and three assists. Shuler added 15 points with three assists. Luis Rodriquez was the only other double-digit scorer, adding another 15 points on an efficient 6-7 shooting with six rebounds.
“They felt really good about how they played. They’re very proud of their effort and how they prepared.“
Coach Kermit Davis
The Tigers were led by Dru Smith who finished with 17 after scoring 11 in the first. Javon Pickett would also add 10 for the Tigers.
This marks the first time since the 2000-2001 season that Ole Miss has beaten two Top-10 teams in a season. That Ole Miss team would go on to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.
1. The Front Court Stepped Up
Many were watching to see how Romello White was going to follow up his 30-point, career-game performance against Auburn. The Arizona State transfer was held to only twelve minutes against Missouri because of foul trouble, leaving the Rebels looking to Robert Allen, K.J. Buffen, and Sammy Hunter to help out.
Missouri Big Jeremiah Tilmon is a massive man, and the Rebels held him to six points on 2-4 shooting. Allen has stepped up to every challenge that has been asked of him this season, whether coming off the bench or in a starting role. Sammy Hunter is playing as a reserve energy role off the bench and rebounded well using his length to keep Mizzouri off the glass.
K.J. Buffen, recently out due to personal issues, came back and played a large role against Mizzou. He responded with nine points, six rebounds and four assists.
“We’re all just pulling for KJ. He’s got such a great heart. He had his two best days of practice this week. He did everything tonight. He guarded his tail off. He was really good tonight.“
Coach Davis on K.J. Buffen
Ole Miss won the rebounding battle, 34-19, and owned the paint, scoring 28 down low compared to the Tigers’ 18.
— TJOxley1 (@TJOxley1) February 11, 2021
2. Devontae Shuler is a Star
Looking at this game on its own, I want to start off talking about Jarkel. He scored 21 points and looked the part of a three-level scorer against the Tigers. He was an efficient 8-14 shooting and got it done off of movement, attacking to the rim, and on his classic, mid-range dribble pull-ups. He looked every bit as strong as advertised, as the locals will remember from his days at Oxford High.
I have to bring up Shuler for the long term, though. Devontae added 15 points tonight and had a couple of huge threes late in the shot clock. His ability to make big-time plays in big time situations has been on full display as of late.
How is he a star? In the last nine games, Shuler has scored 15+ in eight of the Rebels’ contests and 19+ in five. He has also stepped up his rebounding during that stretch. But it is his leadership that is one of the keys to Ole Miss’ success.
“His voice, talking to players on the sideline, communicating scouting info on the floor, (doing things) that senior guards do. He’s really helping our team in that area.“
Coach Kermit Davis on Devontae Shuler
3. The Rebs control their own destiny
If you listened to the broadcast, you heard the announcers talk about the potential of Ole Miss making it to the NCAA tournament.
If you listened to The Rebel Walk’s postgame show, you know Matt Barnthouse, Tyler Komis and I have discussed the potential for the Rebels to get to the NCAA tournament for the past week-and-a-half.
We decided they needed to win five of their final six to be in a good position and emerge with one against Missouri (yep). So far, the team is one-for one. On the broadcast last night, they discussed Joe Lunardi’s thoughts on the Rebels — saying that if Kermit’s team wins against Missouri (yep), they would then be in the “next group out” after the first four out.
The Rebels currently hold a NET ranking of 64. Their next five contests come against South Carolina, Mississippi State, Missouri, Vanderbilt and Kentucky. Ole Miss is higher in the SEC standings than four of those teams. The Rebels currently sit at 11-8 overall (6-6) and are in a position to control their own destiny.
— Dari Nowkhah (@ESPNDari) February 11, 2021
There is a path to the tournament. It may be difficult still but, the way is clear. It’s going to be fun to watch the rest of the season play out!
- Ole Miss earned its second victory over a top-10 team this season, earning multiple wins over top-10 teams for the first time since the 2000-01 campaign.
- The 21-point win was the largest margin of victory over a top-10 team since an 84-56 win over No. 6 Alabama (March 3, 2002).
- It was the third victory over a top-10 team in three seasons under Kermit Davis.
- The Rebels shot 56.9 percent from the floor, their best field goal percentage in an SEC game since Feb. 7, 2015 (57.8 percent vs. Auburn).
- Jarkel Joiner scored a game-high 21 points, his third 20-point game of the season.
- Reigning SEC Player of the Week Devontae Shuler recorded all 15 of his points from beyond the arc; his five three-pointers helped move him into ninth in program history for threes made (166), passing Jason Harrison (163).
- Luis Rodriguez scored a career-high 15 points.
- It was the first time this season that three Rebels scored at least 15 points in the same game.
- Ole Miss held a 34-19 (+15) advantage on the boards.
(Tip-Ins are courtesy of Ole Miss Men’s Basketball)
(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)