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Ole Miss Men’s Basketball: Five Keys for the Rebels Against Marquette

Ole Miss Men’s Basketball: Five Keys for the Rebels Against Marquette

Ole Miss men’s basketball is heading to the South Carolina coast, where head coach Kermit Davis’ team is looking to get some valuable experience in the Shriners Children’s Charleston Classic. The three-round event, starting today, will take place at TD Arena on the College of Charleston campus.

Ole Miss (2-0) comes into the contest following a 93-68 win over Charleston Southern last Friday. Coach Davis has been pleased with the new pace of this Ole Miss team but thinks they can play even faster. The Rebels are led by the perimeter play of Jarkel Joiner, Austin Crowley, and Luis Rodriquez. The veteran trio are the only Rebels to score in double figures so far, but newcomers Jaemyn Brakefield and Tye Fagan aren’t far off.

The rest of the field for the SCCC consists of: Temple, Boise State, Marquette, Clemson, St. Bonaventure, West Virginia, and Elon.

For more information on the bracket and TV schedule, we’ve got you covered here. 

Ole Miss will open up the tourney against Marquette (3-0). The Golden Eagles shocked the college basketball world when they beat No. 10 Illinois at home on Monday. Head coach Shaka Smart’s team looked a lot more like his VCU tenure (.744 W-L%) than his Texas tenure (.559 W-L%).

That win over Illinois changes the perception of this opening game of the Shriner’s Charleston Classic for Ole Miss. This now becomes an early-season resume game, and Ole Miss needs to be ready for the all-out “HAVOC.”

The potential for this tournament has changed that now it has 2/3 big NET games potentially for Ole Miss. These tournaments have become less of a tune-up and more of a lasting impact. We will get to see this team play consistent minutes and likely tighter rotations.

I have an interesting factoid about these early season multi-team events, courtesy of Heat Check CBB on Twitter. This doesn’t directly involve Ole Miss but shows the importance of these early season tournaments.

Marquette (3-0) Preview

  • Coach: Shaka Smart
  • 2020-2021 Record: 13-14 (9-11)
  • Final 2020-2021 NET Ranking: 93rd
  • Key Additions: Darryl Morsell (Maryland), Olivier-Maxence Prosper (Clemson), Kur Kurath (Oklahoma), Tyler Kolek (George Mason), Stevie Mithcell (HS), Emarion Ellis (HS), David Joplin (HS)
  • Key Losses: Dawson Garcia (UNC), DJ Carton (PRO), Koby McEwen (Weber St.), Jamal Cain (Oakland), Theo John (Duke)

Shaka Smart wasted little time assembling a top-20 recruiting class at Marquette. The class, headlined by Stevie Mitchell, features three guys inside the top-115 and five guys inside the top-200. Smart then went out and got three P5 transfers in Darryl Marsell, Kur Kuath and Olivier-Maxence Prosper.

The downside to all this is that the Golden Eagles lost their top five returning scorers to the pros or to the transfer market. The Rebels drew Marquette in the opening round, so expect a contest where Smart’s team plays with extraordinary pace and looks to add pressure that can turn into easy buckets on the other end.

Marquette Players to Watch

Darryl Morsell

The Maryland transfer has elevated his game since coming to play for Shaka Smart this season. A former Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Morsell has been tasked with heading the offense and has delivered. The grad-transfer has elevated his scoring from 9.0 PPG last year all the way up to 22.7 this year.

He is off to an incredibly hot streak shooting the ball this season as he is making 56% of his threes on 5.3 per game. A shifty player, he also looks to attack the basket and has excelled at getting to the line.

Justin Lewis

A breakout candidate as a sophomore, Lewis brings athleticism to one of the forward spots. While still looking to develop an outside shot, his ability to attack and pull-up has been on display. He’s shooting over 80% from the line this year, showing his touch as a shooter. Similar to Joiner last year, Lewis isn’t quite comfortable beyond the 3-pt line. The biggest threat is his motor and rebounding ability at 6’7″ and 245 pounds.

Tyler Kolek

A transfer from George Mason, Kolek has been a facilitator in his new role at Marquette. He has more than doubled his 2.3 assists per game last year, all the way up to 5.7 per game. A sneaky athlete and good shooter, Kolek provides the Golden Eagles with another perimeter threat who isn’t scared to shoot or attack.

Ole Miss Players to Watch

Jaemyn Brakefield

The Duke transfer is starting to put it all together. Saying that this early in the season for a guy in a completely new role is almost unfair. However, the flashes grew from the scrimmage to game two. He has been getting more comfortable and his impact in the second half of the Charleston Southern game was noticeable.

Now Brakefield is up for his biggest challenge to date in guarding Justin Lewis. He needs to be able to handle a larger role offensively and show the defensive versatility that makes him an interesting prospect.

Luis Rodriquez

Rodriquez’s defensive chops have been on display for years now. He will likely be tasked with slowing down Morsell on Thursday night, and this may be the most interesting matchup in the game.

If Rodriquez can cause fits, I feel Ole Miss will be in that much better of a position to win. We haven’t seen a ton of minutes from Rodriquez this season, but today could be the game he gets back to 25+ for the game.

Matthew Murrell

A player many think will take a jump in year two, Murrell has been quite effective in limited minutes (schedule/result) so far. With Ruffin being out for a month, Murrell may have to handle some at the point but at the very least he will see more minutes. The Golden Eagles pressure and traps will leave people open and Murrell, who can shoot, could be in to get more shots up this game.


For those who might not be aware, “Havoc” is the trademark of Shaka Smart’s defense. It is the swarming full-court pressure that his defense brings. It’s also a part of the culture the Golden Eagles instill in their players. There are two primary presses that Shaka uses with one having two variations. Before we go over what Ole Miss needs to do to beat Marquette, we should go over all three variations of the press.


The names denotes the signal that the animated Shaka Smart will use to call the press. It’s a full-court man-to-man press. The main difference between this and the other full-court press (double fist) is that it DOES NOT trap. You will see a defender on the ball as they try to make the inbounds pass very tough. From there on, Shaka wants full-on pressure on the ball making it tough for the opposing guards to handle the ball and make plays.

Double Fist

This one as you could guess is the other variation of the man-to-man press. In this variation there is trapping. The big way to distinguish is that the in-bounder won’t be guarded. Instead, he will be used as an extra-defender to take away a big opposing threat. In this case, it would likely be trying to get the ball out of Joiner’s hand.

The goal Shaka is trying to accomplish is to apply pressure — and the person guarding the inbound will take the trap (if not doubling already). If they head toward the sideline, the next man down the sideline may come to trap and everyone will rotate around. They will use the half-court line and sidelines as trapping points. The main goal in this situation is to take away the most obvious pass so that the ball handler should not see the trap coming.

We have a prime example of this from the end of the Illinois game.

Here at the end of the game, they are using pressure to keep the handler by the half-court line. Tyler Kolek comes from the weak side without Frazier seeing. The trap was coming, and Frazier had an unprotected dribble that ended up being a game-winner.


This is the zone press that Shaka runs, a staple from his time at VCU. This is the 1-2-1-1 press. Shaka uses this in a variety of ways, whether out of a timeout on the sideline or under the basket. Against Illinois, Marquette even ran it out of a missed timeout.

The 1-2-1-1 looks to get traps in what they call the “coffin corners.” The first set is the corners as soon as the ball gets inbounded, while the other is right past the half-court line. The most important player in this will be the man on the ball; he is responsible for traps. Ideally, on the ball, he is trying to get the in-bounder to pass it to the near corner, but he will trap regardless.

In the clip above, we see an example of this out of a missed free throw. Lewis becomes the trap man as they push the ball toward the sideline. The delay in ball movement results in a turnover for the Golden Eagles.

Five Keys for Ole Miss

Use Joiner As Your Inbounder

In this press, you know the trap is coming at the corner. Especially with the 1-2-1-1, which is the more common of the Shaka “Havoc” presses, we know a trap is coming on the first pass. Have Joiner inbound so when the trap comes he can attack the swing. The way to beat the 1-2-1-1 is through the middle. Instead of having a wing attack the middle, he can attack it and pass to a wing across the half-court line. We saw Illinois start to do a lot of this with Curbelo which really limited the effectiveness of the zone.

Prioritize Secondary Ball Handlers

Just like Curbelo, Marquette is going to throw a lot of pressure at Joiner. The good news is that Ole Miss is deep and has capable ball handlers they can throw out beside him. Crowley has some experience at the point, while Murrell and Tye Fagan can fill in some if needed. Jaemyn Brakefield also gives Ole Miss a forward with an advanced skill set.

The problem is that Illinois ran their spread offense through Curbelo, and Ole Miss can afford to diversify their options.  Keep running sets and allow all of them to have playmaking opportunities and Ole Miss can give Marquette fits.

Another thing to watch is that Marquette won’t allow Ole Miss to split defenders. Ole Miss has to be smart with the ball. In the clip below, Curbelo gets locked into trying to split a hedge off the screen twice and the second ends up turning it over. Consistent ball movement could help prevent these situations. That doesn’t mean abandon the ball screen, but Ole Miss needs to play smart.

Get Nysier Touches

A lot of Illinois’ inside game was gone when Kofi Cockburn was deemed suspended. The real presence on the inside came from Omar Payne.

Kermit Davis has already talked about getting Nysier more looks inside. He has 30 pounds and two inches on Kur Kuath. In the Ohio State scrimmage, Ole Miss really used its physicality to go at a smaller opponent, and the Rebels can bring that same physicality to this game.

Getting Nysier some early touches whether it be on post-ups, rim runs, or rolls need to be a priority. If he can’t get buckets, he can probably still get offensive rebounds which Marquette has given up a lot of.

Hit the Screener

Don’t abandon the pick-and-roll. Use It and use the pick-and-pop. Marquette hedged ball screens even with Kuath. This prevents an easy opportunity to hit the screener in either a roll or a pop.

The first would be to use Crowley, who is the best PNR handler, to get a pass to Brooks rim running or hit the secondary. This would be one way to get Nysier some touches. The more intriguing option would be to use Brakefield as a screener. His game could make for a perfect short roll or pop man.

Look at the clip below where Justin Lewis hedges way out. Hawkins then pops and could have an easy triple or he could hit a short roll as the help defender arrives. Brakefield, a solid passer, should have the ability to find the open man for a cut or shot.

Use the 1-3-1

There’s a lot in here about why Marquette’s defense is dangerous. The 1-3-1 is just as dangerous on the Ole Miss side. Despite Marquette wanting to get downhill and attack, Ole Miss should try to establish its defensive prowess as well. Use the 1-3-1 and get the Golden Eagles out of a rhythm they haven’t had the time to adequately practice for.

Game info: 

Ole Miss and Marquette tip off at 6:00 p.m., and the game will be televised on ESPN2.

TJ Oxley

TJ Oxley

TJ Oxley is the Vice President of Operations and the Director of Community Relations for The Rebel Walk. He is also the Director of Basketball Content and Senior Basketball Writer. He has over five years of experience providing in-depth analysis of college basketball through multiple platforms. A former MBA graduate of Ole Miss, TJ started with The Rebel Walk in 2019.

About The Author

TJ Oxley

TJ Oxley is the Vice President of Operations and the Director of Community Relations for The Rebel Walk. He is also the Director of Basketball Content and Senior Basketball Writer. He has over five years of experience providing in-depth analysis of college basketball through multiple platforms. A former MBA graduate of Ole Miss, TJ started with The Rebel Walk in 2019.

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