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Ole Miss keeps NCAA tourney hopes alive with 60-53 win at No. 24 Missouri

Ole Miss keeps NCAA tourney hopes alive with 60-53 win at No. 24 Missouri

Ole Miss defeated No. 24 Missouri, 60-53, Wednesday night in Columbia to keep the Rebels’ NCAA tournament hopes alive.

(Click here for Box Score.)

The situation looked a tad bleak Saturday after Ole Miss suffered a discouraging loss to in-state rival Mississippi State, but head coach Kermit Davis’ bunch just kept grinding.

The Rebels had been riding high on a four-game win streak that sparked the team and the fanbase. After the loss to the Bulldogs, however, the Rebels fell to 62nd in the all-important NCAA NET rankings. In order to keep the postseason dream alive, Ole Miss needed to get back to its winning ways — but would have to do so on the road against the nation’s No. 24 team.

Heading into the contest against Missouri, the Rebels’ backs were up against the wall in a game many considered to be a “must-win.”

Ole Miss needs every opportunity to boost its resume and a win against a Quadrant 1 (Q1) opponent, such as Mizzou, is exactly what the doctor ordered.

The win over the Tigers gives the Rebels their third Q1 win of the season in seven attempts. A Q1 win is one that is against a top-30 ranked RPI team at home, a top-50 team on a neutral site and a top-75 team on the road.  Prior to the contest, the Tigers sat at 40th in the NET.

For Missouri, this game was a chance to get a quality win at home, as well as a revenge game against the Rebels who defeated the Tigers 80-59 at The Pavilion earlier this month. A win for Ole Miss becomes the Rebels’ second win in three games vs a ranked opponent.

First-half action

The game remained a pretty even matchup for a good part of the first half as we saw Romello White play an efficient half of basketball, not missing a shot in the first period.

On the defensive end, the Rebels needed a little time to find their footing early on, as a couple of miscommunications would lead to some open shots for the Tigers.

However, in the latter part of the first half is when things really kicked into next gear and Ole Miss held the Tigers without a FG for the final 3:59 of the half.

The Rebels would take a nine-point lead heading into halftime. They held the Tigers to 24 points in the first period, limiting Missouri star Xavier Pinson to 1-6 shooting.

Second-half action

In the second half, we saw the Tigers mount a comeback that featured an eleven-point run to tie the game at 39-39.

Missouri forward Kobe Brown staged the comeback as he notched 11 points and seven rebounds in the second half, alone, and the Rebels found themselves at a critical point. The momentum had swung as the Tigers were rolling offensively, and it could have been a moment where Ole Miss backed down.

But that was not the case.

The Rebs continued to fight and made some key plays down the stretch, including a couple that helped them regain and extend the lead.

Leading to this next clip, Devontae had made a stunner of a three to give the Rebels a three-point lead. Mark Smith immediately answered the call with a three of his own.

Prior to this, Ole Miss had two turnovers from a charge by Romello White and a tie-up. With their backs against the wall, the Rebels went back to White again on a high ball screen (which they had used a lot to draw up the Tigers’ Tilmon), but White then made a quick decision to hit a diving K.J. Buffen for a good look in a tough moment.

After this play, Missouri’s Dru Smith went down and hit a tough turn-around jumper that would tie the game, and yet again Ole Miss would be faced with a critical moment where the Rebels needed to turn the tide back in their favor.

This time, though, Coach Kermit Davis would call a beautiful set with two weakside screens that ended up being an alley-oop for Luis Rodriguez, giving the Rebels the lead again.

Never Quit

The Rebels showed resilience and a never-quit spirit with those two plays, and after a Tilmon make tied the game, senior guard Shuler put us back on top. A Buffen layup would give Ole Miss the final separation the Rebels needed to seal the win.

Ole Miss (13-9, 8-7 SEC) would go on to win the contest, 60-53, as Jarkel Joiner would finish the game off by hitting six straight free throws in the final minute.

Four Rebels scored in double figures (Shuler-14, Rodriquez-10, White-10, Joiner-10), and the victory marked the first time since ’97-’98 that Ole Miss has beaten the same ranked team twice in a season.

White finished the game with seven rebounds. Joiner and Rodriquez led the team in assists with three apiece.

The Rebels shot 38% (21-55) from the field and 27% (3-11) from three on the evening. They won the rebounding battle, 41-32, and held the Tigers to just two points in transition for the game, a point of emphasis in the first contest from head coach Kermit Davis.

The Tigers (14-7, 7-7) were led by Jeremiah Tilmon who tallied a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Leadership from the guards

One of the more surprising notes from the postgame press conference came from Coach Davis as he talked about the leadership shown by Shuler and Joiner.

After the Rebels lost to State Saturday, the two went and spoke with the head coach and asked if they could have Sunday off. That would typically be a practice day. They assured Coach Davis they would come back even stronger in Monday’s practice but that they felt the team needed some time to regather itself after the loss.

Coach listened to his two leaders and gave them the afternoon off, trusting in their judgment about what the team needed.

Tournament hopes alive

With the win over Missouri, the Rebels are now back on the radar of ESPN’s Joe Lunardi who again has the team as a part of the “Next Four Out.”

Other teams in that category are Georgia Tech, SMU, and Utah State. According to Lunardi, the SEC is expected to get six teams in the tournament as of games played February 24.

Up Next

Ole Miss travels to Nashville to face Vanderbilt Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

(Feature image credit courtesy of Ole Miss Basketball)

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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