Ole Miss Battles Back But Falls Short in 74-68 Loss at Missouri
Ole Miss entered Saturday night’s contest against Missouri with the opportunity to accomplish a couple of key things.
First, the Rebels could avenge their loss at home against the Tigers in a game where Missouri was absolutely scorching on offense, making a blistering 62% of their shots. Secondly, Ole Miss could gain some momentum as it kicked off a stretch of three straight Q3 games (Mizzou, South Carolina, and Georgia).
Unfortunately, the Rebels will have to wait to get that winning momentum going as the Tigers were able to hold on for a 74-68 win in Columbia.
Ole Miss found itself with its back against the wall after a 9-0 Mizzou run to start the second half. The Rebs went down as much as 20 points in this one but still managed to find a way to creep back into it down the stretch. Although Ole Miss had some chances, the Rebels dug themselves into a hole that was a little too deep.
“We showed a lot of toughness at the end,” said Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis.
“We tried to settle on five guys that could make stops, but our bigs just really struggled guarding smaller guys, and Nas (Brooks) finally in the second half got into a stance and started guarding. I really think our team had a chance to win. We had some looks too down the stretch to get it to a one possession game, but failed to do it. But the team fought it and hung in there until the end.“
Coach Kermit Davis
Things were running right out of the gate, and in the first half both teams were shooting well. Ole Miss shot 52% from the field in the half, and after a brief issue in the beginning really found a way to get some production in the paint.
A scary moment occurred early in the first as Matthew Murrell took a tough hit to the head after a Missouri player fell on him. Murrell was tended to by the training staff but returned to the contest shortly. The Rebels struggled to keep control of the ball with two back-to-back turnovers to start the game.
In the first half, Ole Miss recorded 8 turnovers that led to 12 Missouri points.
The Ole Miss defense has struggled with the Tigers and that continued into Saturday’s game. Missouri ended up with a 43-32 lead at halftime in large part to a late 12-2 run by the Tigers. This is not the first time Ole Miss has given up a late-half run, leaving the team the task of coming back from a higher deficit in the second half.
Cuonzo Martin’s team shot 53% in the first half and accumulated 24 points in the paint.
The aforementioned 12-2 run to end the first, paired with the 9-0 run, did have the Rebels down 20 early in the second. However, at that point Ole Miss really began to clean things up on both sides of the ball.
On the offensive end, the Rebels continued to shoot the ball really efficiently in the second, shooting 48% from the field. Ole Miss found a way to cut down its turnovers in the second and Coach Davis’ bunch kept control of the half starting around the sixteen-minute mark. This and a trio of runs (8-0, 6-0, and 4-0) had the Rebels within striking distance.
Defensively, Ole Miss really began to limit the penetration of the athletic five-out Missouri game plan. Down the stretch, the Rebels forced multiple turnovers and a couple of shot clock violations that helped them get it to a two-possession game late in the second. The Tigers were held without a FG for the final 3:27 of the contest.
Ole Miss had chances to make it even closer but just couldn’t capitalize. There was a critical four-point swing late in the second half where following a Missouri turnover, the Rebs threw a poor pass inside that resulted in a steal and a transition layup for the Tigers. Ole Miss also failed to capitalize on a four-on-one fast-break opportunity.
By the numbers
The Tigers now improve to 10-14 on the year, 4-7 in SEC play. With the win, Cuonzo Martin’s team complete the season sweep over Ole Miss. Five Tigers scored in double figures (Pickett, DeGray, Gordon, Brown, and Davis) as Missouri shot 54% from the field and 50% from the perimeter for the contest. Prior to tonight, the Tigers were the worst outside shooting team in the SEC.
Missouri also won the rebounding battle (32-27) and edged the Rebels with points in the paint (40-34).
Matthew Murrell led the way for the Rebels with 15 points. Jarkel Joiner (13) and Luis Rodriquez (12) also finished in double figures.
Ole Miss shot an even 50% from the field (27-54) on the night. From the line, the Rebels shot 10-17 and struggled in the second half, shooting 8-14. With the loss, Ole Miss now sits at 12-13 overall and 3-9 in conference play.
Luis Rodriguez continues to play well
It was another impressive performance for Rodriquez tonight. Quietly the junior has put on a string of impressive performances.
at Mizzou – 12 PTS, 10 REB,
vs. Alabama – 0 PTS, 6 REB, 9 AST
at Florida – 8 PTS, 11 REB
at LSU – 15 PTS, 12 REB
vs. Kansas State – 10 PTS, 3 REB
The improved play from Rodriquez is a good sign after some early-season scoring woes. With the struggles and adversity this team has faced all year, there are things we can look at as positives for the future, such as how Daeshun Ruffin was averaging nearly 15 PPG over his last four contests prior to getting injured, and how Matthew Murrell has improved his game in SEC play as he continues his breakout season.
It is definitely a positive to see the development and growth of players who can be a foundational part of this program for the long term.
Ole Miss takes the court on Tuesday as the Rebs return home to take on South Carolina. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. (CT), and the game will be televised on ESPNU.
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.