TJ’s Takeaways: What We Learned From Ole Miss’ 70-69 Win Over Detroit Mercy
OXFORD, Miss. — Last night, Ole Miss narrowly edged out Detroit Mercy in a game that went down to the final possession. With the 70-69 win, Ole Miss improves to 3-0 on the season. It wasn’t exactly the prettiest of games as Detroit Mercy found success in moving the ball and attacking the paint. Through this and some impressive shot-making, the Titans managed to keep themselves close in a game that Vegas favored Ole Miss by 23.5 points.
The Rebels were able to get by behind a breakout performance from Jaylen “Juju” Murray. The St. Peter’s transfer exploded for 22 points, 14 of which came in the second half. Matthew Murrell also added 17 points in the effort. On the rebounding end, Jamarion Sharp put together a solid performance with a game-high 10 rebounds. He also added 8 points, 2 blocks, and 2 steals. Detroit Mercy was led by a trio of Jayden Stone (22 PTS), Marcus Tankersley (19 PTS), and Edoardo Del Cadia (10 PTS).
This series, TJ’s Takeaways, is here to help identify things that really stand out from the games, things you may not be able to find from a box score. If you’re looking for a recap of the game, don’t worry we’ve got you covered. Check it out HERE.
Now lets’s get into the takeaways.
Chris Beard trusted himself and kept shaking things up
Only two players on Ole Miss’ roster played over 30 minutes this game. Eight players played over 10+ minutes and six of those eight played 20+ minutes. Throughout this contest, Chris Beard kept trying new lineups, kept rotating players, and tried different things to find what would work.
The Rebels tried a few different ways to sort of speed up the game and get the internal clock for Detroit Mercy going faster. This included some full court pressure and even a press zone as well. Towards the end of the game we saw an all-guard lineup with Matthew Murrell, Jaylen Murray, TJ Caldwell, Robert Cowherd, and Allen Flanigan.
When a coach tries different lineups to see what works schematically in these early games, it helps identify what they may and may not be able to do. Later on we’ll know that Ole Miss can put this perimeter-focused heavy defensive lineup out there that can really ramp up the pressure.
Jaylen Murray unlocked a critical part of his game that was and will be key for Ole Miss
Murray proved tonight that he can get downhill. Adding 22 points today and 7 assists, Jaylen Murray showed that he can get into the paint. Especially against zone teams, which Ole Miss has seen a good amount of this year. Prior to Murray finding his way to get by defenders, Ole Miss relied on paint touches via flashes through the middle (normally Jaemyn Brakefield or Flanigan) or feeds to a sealing Jamarion Sharp.
Having a guard who can do this adds another element to the offense. As the tape shows, Murray was able to find success there as well with a few floaters, a pull-up or blowing by and trying to get all the way to the rim. This forces that defense to play a little bit closer and will free up space on the perimeter. This gravity allows for an inside approach that was part of the reason Ole Miss had its most successful perimeter shooting night of the year. Murray, himself, also found success in this against their zone by receiving kick outs and swings off of that to reverse the ball for open shots.
Speaking of the perimeter success, Ole Miss knocked down the three ball at a 50% clip and made 9 threes. Murray and Murrell each made one while Caldwell made two. The Ole Miss offense was hoping to find looks there and today showed that a shooting bump from last year’s group should be coming.
TJ Caldwell has shown a versatile offensive game in Year 2
Chris Beard mentioned before the season that Caldwell was a player he is excited about having on the floor as a sophomore. Last year under Kermit Davis, Caldwell started 7 games and showed flashes of what made him such a high ceiling recruit.
This year, Caldwell has had a couple of impressive performances especially in the shot making category, but tonight we saw an even bigger glimpse. The numbers won’t overly ‘wow’ you, but Caldwell finished with 8 PTS on 3-6 shooting to go with 5 rebounds and 2 assists.
In the game, Caldwell found many different opportunities that showed the versatility he can bring. In a short stretch in the first half, Caldwell made a catch-and-shoot three, attacked a closeout off the baseline, made a defender hit the floor off a spin into a mid range pull-up and set himself up to receive the pass for a high-low action. The baseline and the high-low weren’t executed perfectly, but it’s an encouraging sign to see Caldwell’s development progress well.
The sophomore guard is proving to add more and more elements to his game and this is something to monitor as time goes on.
It was ugly. It was a win, though, and come March — that’s all that matters.
The first part of this is going to focus on areas of the game that are concerning but then I’ll come back to the overall point of it all.
For the second game in a row, Ole Miss has lost the rebounding battle to a team from a lower level and an undersized team. Tonight it was a 33-28 edge that favored Detroit Mercy. The Titans offense looked to find mismatches by running a guard-heavy lineup that would keep Ole Miss scrambling on closeout and defensive rotations. The Titans also hunted mismatches where these excess guards could work to attack with quickness on bigger Ole Miss defenders. Specifically, it was the duo of Tankersley and Stone who were the focal point of the plan. It worked for a majority of the game as Tankersley could find himself deep in the Ole Miss paint and Stone could create space for jumpshots.
Ole Miss forced a crucial scoring drought later in the second half thanks in part to that unique guard-heavy Ole Miss five. As the season goes on, Ole Miss will have to tighten up its closeouts, get quicker with the help defense, and stop some of these from the point of the attack to slow it back down.
Despite this, Ole Miss won the game. In the grand scheme of it all, come March it will show as a win and that is what matters. The NET system is going to show this as a lower-quad win and the margin of the victory won’t be weighted too much. That isn’t saying that Ole Miss doesn’t have things to fix coming out of this game. However, take it as a win and move on to the next one.
Ole Miss is 3-0 and doesn’t have a loss on the resume.
Ole Miss takes on Sam Houston State on Friday in a throwback game in the TadPad sponsored by C-Spire
TJ Oxley is the Vice President of Operations and the Director of Community Relations for The Rebel Walk. He is also the Director of Basketball Content and Senior Basketball Writer. 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.