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Shuler’s Career-High 31 Points Lead Ole Miss Past South Carolina, 81-74

Shuler’s Career-High 31 Points Lead Ole Miss Past South Carolina, 81-74

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Heading into tonight’s contest, Ole Miss men’s basketball knew what it needed to do. The Rebels may be in a position to control their own postseason destiny, and tonight’s 81-74 win over South Carolina was another step in the right direction.

(Click here for box score.)

As of February 13, Ole Miss currently has a NET ranking of 57 and is looking to improve its resume. With tonight’s win the Rebels now sit seventh in the SEC standings with scheduled contests against State, Missouri, Vanderbilt, and Missouri.

Prior to tonight’s contest, Bracketologist Joe Lunardi of ESPN has the Rebels as one of his “Next 4 Out.”

Head coach Frank Martin’s Gamecocks have battled Covid-19 issues all season long that have largely taken away their non-conference slate. The team has had its inconsistencies, but still experienced some bright spots — including the win over Florida, a blowout win against Georgia, and a tough-fought loss against Alabama on Tuesday.

The Rebels entered into Saturday’s contest on a three-game win streak, two of which have come against Top 10 opponents in Tennessee and Missouri and a third coming in a tough overtime win on the road at Auburn.

First-half action

Early on in tonight’s contest, both teams struggled to get into a rhythm as there were 19 combined turnovers in the first half.

Coach Martin would put his team in a zone to slow down the place of the game that Ole Miss took a few possessions to figure out. Then, as the Rebels would score we would see Coach Davis do the same thing right back at the Gamecocks.

Things were pretty close until Ole Miss went on a 13-2 run near the end of the first period that would extend the Rebels’ lead to thirteen. At the end of the first half, Ole Miss was up by eight, 36-28.

In the first half, the Rebels shot 48% from the field and 28% from three, compared to the Gamecocks who shot 37% and 26%, respectively.

Ole Miss received great contributions from Devontae Shuler, who we’ll get to later, and K.J. Buffen in the first half. Shuler finished with 13 in the first, while Buffen added 7 on 2-2 shooting.

Coach Davis praised Buffen for his performance against the Gamecocks.

That’s just what K.J. Buffen is….He is so important to us, playing the 3 and the 4. He is in a good place right now, and we are so happy for him and happy for our team.

Coach Kermit Davis

Buffen has recently dealt with some personal issues and has now played 20+ minutes in back-to-back games with great effort.

Second-half action

In the second half, the Rebels continued to run up the score and stretch their lead out to as high as 18 with 5:45 left in the second half.

Ole Miss benefitted from a career night from Shuler who got to the line for fourteen attempts in the second half en route to his 18 points in the period.

If you know basketball, you understand a Frank Martin-coached team will never say die, and his Gamecocks fought and clawed their way back and held the Rebels without a field goal for the final 6:15 of the contest.

Ole Miss made a couple of poor decisions against a 2-2-1 press from South Carolina that kept things interesting. But it would be a case of too little, too late as the Gamecocks could only cut it to a five point South Carolina deficit.

It would be Shuler who — whether off a defensive rebound or inbounds — would find the ball in his hands for the closing possessions. He made trip after trip to the free throw line to seal his first win in Columbia in his college career and keep the Ole Miss winning streak alive.

Scoring summary

Ole Miss (12-8, 7-6 Southeastern Conference) shot an overall of 50% from the field to continue its hot stretch while shooting 30% from deep.

Shuler notched a career-high 31 on an efficient 8-13 shooting and 13-16 from the line. He also tallied seven rebounds and four assits. Romello White would add 14 points on 5-9 shooting and five rebounds.

K.J. Buffen would be the only other Ole Miss player to score in double figures as he scored 12 points on 3-3 shooting from the field and five free throws while also grabbing four rebounds.

South Carolina (5-9, 3-7 SEC) was led by A.J. Lawson who finished with 22 points and 7 rebounds. Wildens Leveque and Trae Hannibal would be the only other Gamecocks to get into double figures. Leveque added 13 on 6-7 shooting and Hannibal totaled 12.

Coach Frank Martin’s team is now sitting at 11th in the SEC.

Three Points

1. More than a game for Shuler

This game was more than just a must-win on the road for one player in particular. It was the final homecoming for senior guard Shuler. Hailing from the town of Irmo right outside of Columbia, the trip to Colonial Life Arena is just under twenty minutes.

It means a lot. Ever since I have been here, I never got a win in Columbia. I just locked in. I just wanted to win for my team. I had a lot of family and friends here in the stands.

Devontae Shuler

Shuler has been on a tear since January 12th when Ole Miss played Florida. After tonight’s 81-74 win over the Gamecocks where he scored his career-high 31, Shuler has now scored 15+ points in 9 of his last 10 games and double figures in all ten.

2. Kermit goes to the bench more

Outside of Shuler’s career performance, the Rebels received a balanced effort from everyone on the floor. The only player to play and not score was Matthew Murrell who only got one shot in the contest.

The real story should be the minutes the bench played. Romello White was injured, so we saw valuable minutes from Sammy Hunter who came in for big relief. Hunter also has big shoes to fill with Khadim Sy missing time to injuries. We also got to see K.J. Buffen for 25 minutes as he works his way back into the mix and has looked good doing so.

The pleasant surprise was seventeen minutes from Austin Crowley who has been missing a bit for the past few games. He came in and played with energy, grabbing a couple of rebounds and playing tough defense against the lengthy Carolina guards.

Out of the nine Rebels who entered the contest, eight played double-digit minutes except for the aforementioned Hunter who logged a close nine. In a road game down the stretch, Coach Davis has shown confidence in his bench to establish a next-man-up mentality and his team has not missed a beat.

3. Big Break

The Rebels have a much-deserved break heading into their next contest Saturday against Mississippi State.

With no midweek game this week, both Coach Davis and Shuler were asked about how they intend to handle the extended time off. Coach Davis will watch the film on Monday after giving the team Sunday off, and says they’ll go about business as usual.

Devontae also described what he will do this week:

Visions of dancing

The Rebels can use the time to really hone in on the task at hand as they are on bubble watch for the Big Dance. The next few contests should be exciting for fans to tune in and see this Ole Miss team continue its hot streak.

Hotty Toddy!

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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