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OXFORD, Miss. — Fresh off of one of its best wins of the season, Ole Miss geared up Wednesday evening for the Rebels’ third game in five days, riding high from a home win against Florida Monday. Arkansas came into Oxford one of the hottest teams in the SEC, winning their last four.
Tonight, Arkansas would extend that winning streak to five with the 64-55 victory over the Rebels.
The game was never out of hand for Ole Miss until a 13-0 run for the Razorbacks midway through the second half. This would give Arkansas a 16-point lead with 4:26 left that would be too big of a deficit for Ole Miss to come back.
“I thought there were a lot of periods of time in that game where we sure competed hard enough,” said Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis.
“It just kind of came down to guard play tonight. Their two guys, who people think should be First-Team All-SEC, played like it. Notae just dominated the whole game, and Williams shot the ball well for them. I just thought we had some runs, but could never get over the hump. I thought we got shot after shot after shot, and just couldn’t make those shots when the game was in balance.”
Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis
The Rebel offense struggled just two days after their incredible second half on Monday against the Gators.
Tonight, Ole Miss shot 35% from the field (19-55) and 4-18 (22.2%). This turned out to be the Achilles heel for Kermit Davis’ team. The offense stalled in part due to the physicality that Arkansas brought to the court.
The Arkansas guards pressed up on the Ole Miss backcourt and caused fits for the duo of Daeshun Ruffin and Matthew Murrell. After combining for 41 points against Florida, the two shot a combined 7-24 tonight. This caused Ole Miss to have to look elsewhere for some offensive production.
With the loss, Ole Miss falls to 10-10 on the season and 2-6 in SEC play.
Arkansas shot 48% from the field (24-50). The Razorbacks were led by JD Notae who logged 25 points on 10-23 shooting. Jaylin Williams added 18, and Trey Wade finished a perfect 5-5 shooting with 12 points.
With the win Arkansas — who actually lost its first three SEC contests — now earns its fifth straight win and improves to 15-5, 5-3 SEC.
There were some positives to this matchup. This was a game of contrasts. Ole Miss is second to last in the SEC in adjusted tempo. In layman’s terms, they play slower. Arkansas, on the other hand, leads the SEC in adjusted tempo (meaning they play fast).
When you get two varying styles like this, something has to give. In this case, I expected one of two turnouts. Either Ole Miss would dictate the pace and the game would be slower, or Arkansas would get out and run, continuing its impressive pace.
The Rebels held firm here as Arkansas scored 64 points — which for a typical Kermit Davis team is enough to play for a win. They slowed the game down and really dug into their defense.
The second positive that was noticeable was the number of free throws. Sidebar: Ole Miss was 13-13 from the line; they’ve really improved there. Sidebar over. Arkansas really has a knack for getting to the line. The Razorbacks are the best in the SEC at drawing and making free throws. Tonight they were 8/12. That, alone, doesn’t sound too great, but considering Arkansas had only two free throws attempted until the 1:23 mark makes it impressive.
This isn’t to say there weren’t defensive issues for the Rebels. There were some defensive lapses that did result in easy buckets. The Razorbacks also began to figure out the Ole Miss zone, as well. Arkansas’ JD Notae also continued showing everyone why he is the leader in scoring for the SEC.
All in all, Ole Miss did what it needed to do from a game-plan perspective to be in this game. Coach Kermit Davis said fatigue was not an issue for the Rebs — but rather their inability to make shots.
Murrell was asked how this loss affects the team.
“When you have an off night, it’s going to frustrate you, but you can’t let that keep you down,” Murrell said.
“We gotta get ready for the next game. We have a tough Kansas State team coming in on Saturday, so now we just have to be prepared for them.”
Ole Miss is scheduled to play Kansas State in the Big XII/SEC challenge on Saturday. Tip-off against the Wildcats is set for 3:00 p.m. at the Sandy and John Black Pavilion. The game will be televised on ESPNU.
(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss)
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.