Ole Miss Men’s Basketball Falls to Florida in OT, 62-57
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Fresh off its first Q1 win, a 76-72 victory over LSU Tuesday, Ole Miss traveled to Gainesville for a revenge game with Mike White’s Gators Saturday afternoon. Just thirteen days ago, the Rebels turned heads with an incredible 48-point, second-half performance en route to defeating Florida, 70-54, in Oxford.
Unfortunately, the outcome wasn’t the same this time as Ole Miss fell, 57-62, in overtime.
“Give Florida credit, it was a hard-fought game,” said Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis.
“Both teams guarded really well. Florida was a physical team. I’m really proud of our team. That was a tough loss. We win that game, then we’re tied with Florida and really think we get ourselves back in the middle of some postseason conversations. We’ll bounce back and take tomorrow off, get back to Oxford and prepare like heck for Alabama.“
Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis
Florida entered the contest looking to protect its three-game home winning streak. Prior to tipoff, it was announced that Florida’s Colin Castleton and Ole Miss’ Jarkel Joiner would each suit up for the game — welcome news to their respective teams.
Both Castleton and Joiner, the leading scorers on their teams, have been out due to injuries.
Even with Castleton’s return, however, a major area of focus was going to be the interior. The Gators were playing without Jason Jitoboh who provides a big presence for Florida.
Ole Miss (12-11, 3-7 SEC) certainly delivered on the inside, winning the rebounding battle early on. In the first half, the Rebels out-rebounded Florida, 24-11, and notched nine offensive rebounds. This, in turn, led to 11 second-chance points for Ole Miss as the Rebs took a 30-21 lead into halftime.
Ole Miss benefitted from an early contribution from Matthew Murrell; the sophomore guard was firing from outside as he connected on three triples in the first half.
In the second half, Florida (15-8, 5-5 SEC) would wake up. As a result of the Gators’ defense — paired with some questionable offensive decisions for Ole Miss — 10:15 would pass before the Rebels connected on a field goal.
Florida would take the lead in that run to start the second, and a pair of corner threes from Kowacie Reeves took an emotional toll on Ole Miss, as the Rebels already appeared frustrated on the offensive end.
With 3:36 left in the game, Ole Miss found itself down six points after a couple of Gator threes, but the Rebels managed to claw their way back into it before a Tye Fagan bucket would tie it up for Ole Miss right before the end of regulation.
In the second half, the Rebels shot 23.8% from the field on 5-of-21 shooting and would struggle to really get going in the second half.
“I thought for periods of time we had good ball movement… then things got really stagnant,” said Coach Davis.
Nysier Brooks helped spark the Rebels early in overtime, slamming home a reverse and-one dunk to tie up the game at 50-50. The Gators would hit their stride, however, scoring nine unanswered points and holding a 59-50 lead with just 41 seconds left on the clock.
Tye Fagan led Ole Miss with 15 points, while Matthew Murrell added 14 and Nysier Brooks notched 11. Luis Rodriguez tallied 8 points and 11 rebounds. Joiner, in his return from injury, scored 7 points and notched four rebounds. Austin Crowley added two points.
Florida’s Colin Castleton led all scorers with 17, while Tyree Appleby and Phlandrous Fleming Jr. each scored 10.
With the win, Florida extends its home win streak to four. Tyreese Appleby would make seven of eight free throws to help lead the Gators to a 62-57 win.
Even with return of Jarkel Joiner, the Rebs still missed Daeshun Ruffin
It was a welcome sight to see Jarkel Joiner back on the court after missing weeks to a back injury — and watching him play 40 minutes was definitely unexpected. Coach Davis explained that the team’s last practice before Saturday’s game was Joiner’s first back.
The Oxford, Miss. native added a much-needed veteran presence to the Ole Miss backcourt. Tonight, we saw the energy and grit that make Joiner a fan favorite. I was impressed with his play — but given how long he had been out, no one should have expected Jarkel to go out and play as well as he did.
That being said, this team really misses Daeshun Ruffin. In the second half, it was noticeable. Ole Miss struggled to attack off the dribble or to get much success out of any high pick-and-roll action. The Rebels’ offense struggled, and with Ruffin’s first step it could’ve made a difference tonight.
The reason for optimism is that Joiner will work himself back into game-shape. He still managed to play a very solid game despite a bit of a rusty shooting performance. With him on the court, this offense looked better than it did when it started the game without him. As the old saying goes, you don’t always have to score to make an impact.
The Interior Presence Faded in the Second Half
Early in the contest, Ole Miss dominated the interior. At halftime, the Rebels were winning the rebounding battle, 24-11. They had grabbed six offensive rebounds, leading to eleven second-chance points.
Nysier Brooks finished the half 3-of-6 with 7 points and five rebounds. It was a great two-way performance as he also limited the effectiveness of Colin Castleton. Brooks was able to handle the Florida big by extending him out closer to the perimeter. The most impressive part of the contest was how Nysier had begun to see oncoming double teams and was able to hit weakside players open.
Nysier Brooks smartly hits an open Murrell out of a double team who swings for a Tye Fagan three. pic.twitter.com/52HoCXfhgb
— T.J. (@TJOxley1) February 5, 2022
It looked as if Brooks was going to be the x-factor for the contest; however, in the second half things changed. The Ole Miss offense struggled to find a way to get Nysier the ball off of any seals or swings. He didn’t get his first shot attempt until a little over nine minutes into the second half. This was frustrating when Castleton wasn’t in the contest, as Anthony Duruji was serving as a plug-in big man for the injured Jason Jitoboh. Duruji is a good player, but at 6’7″ he left Ole Miss with a noticeable size advantage for a stretch or two in the second half.
Without an interior presence, this offense struggles to find gaps to attack. On the defensive end, Ole Miss wasn’t as dominant on the boards. This offense performs its best with a balanced attack and getting the interior going will open up perimeter playmakers.
Ole Miss returns home to host Alabama on Wednesday, February 9, with tipoff set for 7:30 p.m.
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.