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Ole Miss Uses Defense to Run Past Elon, 74-56

Ole Miss Uses Defense to Run Past Elon, 74-56

I’m not sure what Kermit Davis said to rally his players after Thursday night’s tough loss to Marquette, but it worked. Ole Miss (3-1) came out and brought it defensively to get a big lead early in Friday’s game against Elon in the Shriners Children’s Charleston Classic before ultimately winning, 74-56.

(Click here for box score.)

An 11-0 run to start the contest put Ole Miss in the driver’s seat for the rest of the game.

The Rebels’ defense was locked in from the beginning. In the first half, Elon (2-3) was held to 21 points as the Phoenix struggled to get anything going. The man-to-man pressure and physicality from Ole Miss were too much to handle. Elon turned the ball over 11 times and failed to score a field goal in the final 7:38 of the first half.

Offensively, Ole Miss went on a series of runs to build a 16-point, first-half lead. The offense was very balanced through the first half as nine Rebels scored. Ole Miss made nearly 52% of its shots in the first half and really began to play with pace as the half went on.

Second-half action

Ole Miss cruised in the second half en route to the 18 point win. The trio of Jarkel Joiner, Jaemyn Brakefield, and Tye Fagan led the way offensively. The Rebels added 35 points in the second half, finding a way to score in the paint in the second half as things opened up. After only 8 points in the paint in the first half, Ole Miss doubled that to 16 in the second.

A big trend early on was that the size and athleticism of Ole Miss were going to be a problem for the Phoenix. The Rebels out-rebounded their undersized-counterpart 42 to 30 in the contest. Midway through the second, Elon tried to throw some full-court and half-court pressure at Ole Miss. After one turnover and another almost-turnover, the Rebels navigated with ease and began to pull away.

Overall, Ole Miss shot 49% (26-53) from the field in the game. Three Rebels scored in double figures as Brakefield and Joiner each added 16 points while Tye Fagan notched 11. Ten Rebels got into the score column.

Elon shot 35% (18-52) from the field. The Ole Miss defense held Elon to only 17 triple attempts, well below their pre-game average of 28.0 per game. Even more impressive, Elon could never find good looks from deep and only made 18% (3-17) of their deep shots.

Three Takeaways

It’s Time for Tye Fagan to Start

Fagan again stuffed the stat sheet in this one. He logged 27 minutes and recorded 11 points, six rebounds, and six assists. Simply, the best way to say it is that Ole Miss is a better basketball team with him on the floor.

Fagan’s shooting again was impressive as he added a couple of impressive pull-ups. He finds a way to make plays. He and Joiner could be a nightmare in transition as both are absolute burners. He rebounds well, flies around on defense, and if he can keep the fouls to a minimum he’s earned a starting spot.

Kermit Davis commented in the postgame press conference that it was either going to be Fagan or Murrell who would get the start tonight. He ultimately went with Murrell –who played well.

Fagan’s ability to get to the lane was always what impressed me when he first came from Georgia, but he’s a jack of all trades who fits in seamlessly with what this team wants to do. He’s 100% bought in and if he continues this trend of impact, it’s only a matter of time until he gets more and more involved.

The Little Things

Looking at the stat sheet can tell you how many points a player scored. It can tell you a team’s shooting percentage. It can even tell you the runs that occurred in the game. A box score can give you a pretty good idea of what happened, but it doesn’t tell you why.

The Ole Miss defense forced Elon to shoot 35% for the game. The reason behind that number is all the little things the Rebels did to take the Phoenix out of rhythm. After re-watching the WVU/Elon game, I noticed how Elon loves to use ball movement and drives to free up open shooters. Ole Miss completely took that away today. The combination of their on-ball pressure, switch versatility, and collapsing were the “WHY” for the rough Elon offense.

It was apparent Ole Miss wasn’t going to let Elon get inside the lane. Especially when Elon tried to attack baseline, the help came. Ole Miss would send another help defender and sometimes two would collapse on the attacker to take away any passing lane available.

Another noticeable detail was that whenever a screen would happen the big would go up to get near hedge position, and the on-ball defender was quick to slide over the screen before it amounted to anything. The Ole Miss bigs, having to recover, also threw their hands up on the way back to their man, making passes seem tougher — a small detail that helps with the angles and intricacies of basketball.

It was the small details that rendered the Elon offense ineffective. This is a team that has experience playing two Power Five schools (WVU and UF). Credit the Ole Miss defense and coaching staff for this win. It’s incredibly hard to have teams go on long-scoring droughts. Ole Miss forced Elon into two. One was 7:36 seconds long to close out the first half, and the one in the second was quite a while also. With how long a possession can be, to be able to do all those little things effectively is incredible, regardless of who you’re playing against.

The Balanced Attack

After every game so far, it was my belief that we were going to see things tighten up. The minutes would change. The shot distribution would change. The offensive focus would change. It hasn’t and that’s a good thing. This team is deep and it shows how versatile they really are.

Ten guys played five or more minutes in this contest. Every single one who did got at least two shot attempts. Outside of Joiner and Brakefield, a player on this team may get 7-9 shots one game and 3-4 the next. This doesn’t allow a lot of people to force up shots and it allows people to be more confident and to learn and grow throughout the season.

As an example, tonight we saw Nysier Brooks take two mid-range jumpers. We haven’t seen a lot of that before. In the last couple of games, we’ve seen Tye Fagan take creative pull-up jumpers. It’s new but these add more elements to a player’s game and makes it that much more difficult for teams to scout for.

Next Up

Ole Miss will play Boise State on Sunday atolemisss noon. That game will be on ESPN2. The Broncos enter this one after having beaten Temple 82-62 earlier on Friday.

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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