Ole Miss Men’s Basketball Starts Slow, Falls 76-66 to Texas A&M
OXFORD, Miss. — As the saying goes… old habits die hard. Many times this year, Ole Miss men’s basketball (13-16, 4-12 SEC) has struggled to start or finish a half. A slow start to Saturday’s game against Texas A&M in the SJB Pavilion doomed the Rebels to a 76-66 loss.
“I take full responsibility because that was embarrassing,” Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis said.
“I didn’t come to Ole Miss to put that kind of product on the floor. We’ve lost some different things, but we have enough to be real, real competitive. We weren’t today.“
Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis
This bad habit has cost the Rebels tremendously throughout the season. Head coach Kermit Davis has mentioned it a few times over the course of the last several months, and we saw today another example of the team getting off to a sluggish beginning that put it in a deep hole.
With today’s loss Ole Miss seems to have run out of gas here at the tail end of the season, losing six of its last seven contests. Key injuries and illnesses to many of his key players have forced Coach Davis to continue tinkering around with lineups as he tries to find some sort of consistency.
The Rebels entered the contest as a two-point favorite. Texas A&M (18-11) came into Oxford on a mission looking to help out with a late-season push to get back on the NCAA bubble. The Aggies are top five in the NCAA in steals per game (10.4) and rank first in the SEC conference. A&M head coach Buzz Williams’ defense brings pressure with a variety of traps and presses, especially in the form of a 3/4 court press.
“Their style of play is kind of a juggernaut for us. It hits us in every area.“
Coach Davis on A&M
Rebels start slow
That pressure showed up early as the Aggies jumped out to a 14-0 lead to start the game. Texas A&M scored three different times off Ole Miss turnovers in the first four minutes of the contest, and the Rebels found themselves trying to figure things out on the fly.
“They were on our heels early, we never really got on our footing.“
Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis
Frustration set in for Ole Miss as Texas A&M had a counter for everything the Rebels threw at them — the Aggies shot 67.9% from the field in the first half (19-28).
Tyrece Radford, who scored 12 in the first meeting between the two teams this season, led the Aggies Saturday with 16 points in the first half.
Texas A&M found success getting into the paint, while the Rebels found themselves being pushed out farther from the basket. Ole Miss was down by as many as 25 in the first half, digging themselves an almost insurmountable hole.
Late rally falls short; McBride motivates
In the final eleven minutes of the contest, Ole Miss seemed to figure it out. Coach Davis experimented a lot as he tried to find a mix of players who would give 100% effort on the court.
Coaches are sometimes forced to try and motivate their players in whatever ways they can, such as getting a technical foul. Today’s motivation came in the form of John McBride. The junior walk-on entered the contest and was a part of the group that cut the Aggie lead.
With a little over two minutes remaining in the game, the Rebels had whittled the Aggie advantage down to ten points after an emphatic alley-oop to Matthew Murrell.
Unfortunately, it was a little too little, a little too late for the Rebels to fully get themselves back in the game after the cold start. But the defensive output was encouraging down the stretch.
Texas A&M was held without a field goal for over nine minutes in the second half, from the 10:30 mark down to 1:03 remaining. The Aggies finished the game hitting just one of their last ten.
The positive is Ole Miss won the second half, 43-30. The negative is that the first half left much to be desired.
By the numbers
Ole Miss finished the game with 66 points and was led by Matthew Murrell. He shot 6-10 from the field and 6-8 from the line as he led the game in scoring for both teams with 20.
Tye Fagan was the only other Rebel to finish the contest in double figures as he had 10. Overall, the Rebels shot 40.4% and 31.8% from three.
Davis’ squad would lose the rebounding battle, 31-28, as well as points in the paint, 38-24.
Texas A&M was led by Radford who finished with 19. Hassan Diarra (13) and Quenton Jackson (11) also scored in double figures. The Aggies were 27-50 from the field, shooting 54%. They were 5-14 (35.7%) from three. With the win, they improve to 7-9 in SEC play.
Matthew Murrell tied his second-best scoring output of the season with 20. The other time he scored 20 was on January 24th against Florida. This was the first start for freshman James White. The Georgia native logged eleven minutes after getting some extended play against Auburn.
Next up, the Rebels travel to Lexington for a Tuesday showdown against Kentucky. That game is scheduled to tip off at 6 PM CT and will be broadcast on ESPN.
(Feature image credit: Petre Thomas, 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.