Ole Miss Handles Kansas State, 67-56, in Big 12/SEC Challenge
OXFORD, Miss. — The SEC/Big XII Men’s Basketball Challenge has become a win-win for both of the participating conferences as of late, as the rise of SEC basketball has given this competition new meaning. On Saturday, Ole Miss earned a 67-56 home win over Kansas State in the 2022 matchup.
This was part of a tough stretch of games in rapid-fire for head coach Kermit Davis’ squad. The non-conference contest would prove to be one of the better all-around performances the Rebels have given on the season.
In its first-ever Big 12/SEC challenge win, Ole Miss controlled the game against Kansas State. The Rebels rode some stellar defense and a strong interior presence to the double-digit victory. Ole Miss out-rebounded the Wildcats 43-33 and dominated inside the paint, outscoring Kansas State 32-14.
“We were representing Ole Miss, but we were also representing the SEC,” said Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis.
“I thought we had multiple guys play well and I thought we guarded well. To hold that team to 30 percent, we out-rebounded them by 10, and I just thought we had a lot of toughness, especially the last eight to 10 minutes of the game.“
Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis
On the defensive end, Ole Miss was fundamentally sound as the Rebs forced the Wildcats to shoot 36 three-point attempts. Kansas State only managed to convert on eleven as the Wildcat offense was stretched out. Despite not forcing a lot of turnovers, the Ole Miss defense did its part as the Wildcats only shot 30% for the game on 19-63 shooting.
A lot can be made of how Daeshun Ruffin handled things running the show tonight. It is certainly not the first time that we’ve seen Ruffin shine, but the freshman guard is really starting to come into his own and is seeing the game slow down.
Ruffin with the clean blow-by for the layup pic.twitter.com/lkDp3SPvAe
— T.J. (@TJOxley1) January 29, 2022
Ruffin’s decision-making has improved as well as his efficiency. He was the leading scorer Saturday night for the Rebels as he tallied 17 points (13 in the second half) and also added a career-high 7 rebounds and 3 assists. He has now finished in double-digit scoring in three consecutive games, as well as nine times on the season in a total of 13 games played.
“I feel like (rebounding) helped us, and it helped our bigs take a break from battling all these bigs,” Ruffin said.
“When guards come down to grab those 50-50 balls, it definitely credits to our win. We stat our 50-50 balls, and I feel like me going to get those seven was just an extra boost.“
Daeshun Ruffin on his career-high seven rebounds
The rest of the scoring production came in a balanced effort. As a team, Ole Miss shot 45% from the field (23-51) and 33% from the perimeter (6-18). The Rebels did a great job of getting to the line, finishing 15-20 from the charity stripe.
Luis Rodriquez was the only other Rebel to score in double figures (10), and it was one of his best offensive performances of the year. This led to a good two-way performance for the junior.
Other notable scoring performances include Matthew Murrell with 9, Tye Fagan with 9, Jaemyn Brakefield with 8, and Nysier Brooks with 6.
Tonight was the first time we saw major minutes from Eric van der Heijden. The freshman provided eleven minutes off the bench to help out with the smaller lineup the Wildcats brought. He provided a +4 plus/minus while making one three and adding a rebound and an assist. This could be the first of a stretch of games where we see Kermit Davis give the North Carolina native an opportunity.
Kansas State was led by the duo of Mark Smith and Nijel Pack. Smith, a transfer from Missouri, added a team-high 20 points. He also grabbed a game-high 16 rebounds. Pack made his mark from the perimeter as he knocked down six triples, leading to all 18 of his points.
The Wildcats were also 7-8 from the free-throw line.
Next up for Ole Miss (11-10, 2-6 SEC) is a trip to face LSU in Baton Rouge on Tuesday. That contest is scheduled for 8:00 p.m.
As of today, the Tigers are ranked 19th in the country and provide Ole Miss with another Q1 opportunity. The game begins a stretch of three straight Q1 opportunities barring any changes that are made.
(Feature image credit: Petre Thomas, Ole Miss)
TJ Oxley is the Director of Basketball Content and Senior Basketball Writer for The Rebel Walk. 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.