Despite Impressive Performance from Murrell, Ole Miss Falls at Kentucky 72-83
LEXINGTON — The odds were against Ole Miss when the team traveled to play the Wildcats Tuesday, as the Rebels have only bested Kentucky twice in Lexington. Head coach Kermit Davis’ team fought hard but ultimately lost, 72-83, despite an outstanding performance from Matthew Murrell.
The last time Ole Miss beat the Wildcats on the road was a stunning upset in 1998, when Ole Miss defeated a top-10 ranked Kentucky squad, 73-64. Before that, the first win happened nearly 95 years ago in 1927.
No room for error
The margin of error against a top-ten team is slim, and on the road against a talented Kentucky team it is even slimmer.
This was the theme for the night as Ole Miss really battled in a tough environment at Rupp Arena. The Rebels put up a strong fight and played well, but Kentucky was just a little bit better. The Wildcats found success in several ways offensively and had answers for all the looks Ole Miss threw at them.
With several guard playmakers in Kellan Grady, Sahvir Wheeler, and Tyty Washington — and one of the best big men in the country in Oscar Tshiebwe — Kentucky made the Rebels work for everything from the opening tip.
Tuesday was also Senior Night for the Wildcats as they honored members of their team with a pre-game celebration.
For head coach John Calipari, it was the first time since 2016 the Wildcats finished a season with a perfect record at home, the fourteenth in Rupp Arena. With the win, Kentucky improves to 24-6 (13-4) in SEC play and looks to get either a 3rd or 4th seed in the upcoming SEC tournament.
Kentucky starts hot
The Wildcats shot an impressive 60% from the field to run out to the eleven-point win. Four Wildcats reached double figures, led by the duo of Tshiebwe (18) and Wheeler (16).
Tshiebwe notched another impressive performance as Ole Miss struggled to keep him off the glass in the second half. He had a double-double of his own in the second half with 10 points and 10 rebounds en route to his 18 point, 15 rebound outing.
“They’re just great on Senior Night, it has been this way for 100 years,” said Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis of the Wildcats.
A 10-0 run in the first five minutes of the game got the Wildcats out to a double-digit lead, and they would remain ahead until the final buzzer. After that initial run, however, it felt like a more even back-and-forth game. The energy and effort were certainly there for both teams. Ole Miss found ways to cut the UK lead down to as little as three in the first half and six late in the second.
The first half had some bigger runs going back and forth. There were a total of five runs that had one team achieving 5+ points. The second half saw only two. One of which was the late-game seven-point run that got the Wildcat lead back into double digits.
A spectacular finish through contact from Matthew Murrell pic.twitter.com/OHzOxs9v0q
— T.J. (@TJOxley1) March 2, 2022
Murrell and Brooks provide a spark
Ole Miss really found a spark from Murrell. The sophomore was already having a breakout season, but it appeared as if he took another step Tuesday night, finishing with a game-high 25 points on 9-16 shooting. He found different ways to score, including showing more aggression in taking the ball to the rim and finishing through contact.
Coach Davis did a good job of finding new ways to get Murrell the ball for both point-of-attack opportunities and catch-and-shoot ones as well.
“He’s playing like an All-SEC guard. We’re really proud of him.“
Kermit Davis on Matthew Murrell
The other Rebel who really stepped up is Nysier Brooks. Having to match up against the aforementioned Tshiebwe is no easy task, and when the two were battling in the post it was a lot of fun to watch. The statistics favor Tshiebwe, but if Nysier had not been in the game, Oscar could have had a lot more.
Nysier found his success in getting five offensive rebounds, tipping out shots, and using successful counter moves. Brooks really displayed a tremendous effort that does not go unnoticed. He finished with 14 points (6-10 FG) and 5 rebounds in 35 minutes.
By the numbers
Overall, the Rebels finished the contest shooting 50% (29-58) from the field while connecting on seven threes at a 38.9% clip.
Playing against a team like Kentucky, Ole Miss really found success in managing to keep control of the ball. The Rebels committed only nine turnovers in the entire game which helped keep things close — despite Kentucky’s success in transition.
Ole Miss would get eighteen points off the bench (James White was a perfect 4-4 for 8 points) and scored 34 points in the paint.
James White with the slam of the oop from Murrell in transition pic.twitter.com/lWu3do3PFB
— T.J. (@TJOxley1) March 2, 2022
Other Rebels to contribute were Jaemyn Brakefield who added 7 points and 8 rebounds, Jarkel Joiner with 8 and the aforementioned White with 8.
There is momentum for the Rebels on the way out of this one as they ended the contest making 6 of their last 7 shots. Ole Miss is now 13-17, 4-13 (SEC). The Rebels get one more chance to build on that momentum with Senior Night in Oxford set for Saturday night against Vanderbilt. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:00 PM CT.