TJ’s Takeaways: What We Learned from Ole Miss’ 72-52 Win Over North Carolina State
OXFORD, Miss. — Ole Miss men’s basketball took down North Carolina State (4-2) Tuesday night in the Pavilion in a convincing fashion to win its matchup in the ACC/SEC challenge. From the opening tip, the Rebels (6-0) jumped out to an early lead and were on top for all 4o minutes in the 72-52 win.
With the win, Ole Miss improves to 6-0 and remains unbeaten after taking down a quality Power-6 opponent. The Rebels started both halves hot early and created sustainable leads in each half, backed by an impressive performance from Jaemyn Brakefield and a stout performance from the defense. Ole Miss held NC State to a 38% shooting night which included a 3-25 performance from beyond the arc.
Brakefield added a career-high 25 points as only five Rebels found the scoring column in this one. Four total Rebels scored in double figures: Brakefield (25), Matthew Murrell (12), Jaylen Murray (12), Allen Flanigan (15) and TJ Caldwell added 8 points off of the bench.
The victory proves to be a key early-season win, as this will be an impressive quad win for when the early season NET rankings are released. It is the first major win of head coach Chris Beard’s tenure with Ole Miss.
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.
Here are my takeaways from the game:
Ole Miss won the intensity battle and it led to winning the game
Prior to the game, I mentioned in an X-Post that Ole Miss needed to be effective defensively for longer stretches.
Big key for the night:
See Ole Miss’s defense be effective for longer stretches. This doesn’t necessarily mean stops but continue to be active. Play energized on that side. Fly around. Don’t get beat off of close outs, and left scrambling. Protect the middle.
— T.J. (@TJOxley1) November 29, 2023
Boy, did they. The Rebels set the tone early with an enthused play that started with the defensive intensity. A staple of any Chris Beard team, this Ole Miss group proves to be no different. A lot of people will discuss how Ole Miss owned the tempo of this game and the pace. They’re not wrong, either. Ole Miss did a really good job of slowing NC State down. The next step is to go farther and discuss what Ole Miss did to do that.
The key to all that for Ole Miss stems from the intensity of its defense. The active hands was the most noticeable thing on the floor for them tonight. Any time NC State got the ball in the paint, Ole Miss swarmed. Any time NC State got an offensive rebound, Ole Miss defenders were immediately going to the ball and trying to poke it free. When these plays happen and you start to get a couple of turnovers, it becomes infectious. This leads to an even bigger team intensity.
So many times we saw Ole Miss make the little plays. The infectious plays. Jaemyn Brakefield tipping up a rebound to later throw it off the defender as he’s about to fall out of bounds, Matthew Murrell diving on the court and tapping the ball off an NC State player’s leg, and plays where multiple Rebels hit the deck. When these plays happen, everyone likes to get in on it. This added pressure on NC State. That pressure led to Ole Miss forcing turnover plays where the Rebels outscored NC State, 13-4.
— Ole Miss Men’s Basketball (@OleMissMBB) November 29, 2023
Even when NC State was finding success in the paint with Ben Middlebrooks, Ole Miss continued to pressure him with any paint touches or rebounds to try and pry it away. They gave up points and NC State made some shots, but it was a fairly consistent game on the defensive end. NC State also did shoot 3-25 from three.
Ole Miss averages around 10.8 STKs per game. (Steals + Blocks). Tonight they tallied 16 total. This is all tied together as Ole Miss tallied 9 blocks and 7 steals. Many would think it would be Sharp who would create most of those blocks. He had three, but so did Allen Flanigan, while Jaemyn Brakefield added two.
Lastly, all this intensity and pressure led to NC State being stuck in droughts. Ole Miss forced four longer-scoring droughts in this game where the Rebels capitalized and found ways to extend their lead.
Jaemyn Brakefield had his breakout performance
He had been quiet in his first few games, but Brakefield found his form in a big way on Tuesday night. It turned out to be a career night as he netted 25 points along with 8 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks. Jaemyn was a guy that deserved a lot of hype in the preseason based on his efficiency, and you can read a lot about that HERE in our Hoops Handbook.
Today, we saw that efficiency in a game where Ole Miss needed others to take the next step. Brakefield finished shooting 8-12 from the field, 2-4 from three, and 7-7 from the line. The skill and size blend for Brakefield makes him a matchup problem for opposing teams, and Coach Beard found a way to take advantage of that. Whether it was off pick and pops, stretching, running the lanes in transition or facing up, there were a variety of ways that Jaemyn showed his offensive skill set.
Brakefield found the most success when matched up against DJ Burns (5 PTS, 4 REB). Ole Miss hunted this matchup and found success on three possessions. Burns being a bigger defender at 275 pounds has the size to handle this matchup, but Brakefield’s handle and long strides kept Burns on his toes where he was stuck trying to recover from drives after hesitations and other dribble moves from Brakefield. Pair that with his post footwork, and it led to some high quality looks.
Allen Flanigan showed why he’s a veteran leader on this Ole Miss team
In a lot of ways, Flanigan has been one of — if the not the most — key offensive players on this team. As the leading scorer, he has had an incredibly high usage rate. It has been to the level of a really good point guard. However, NC State made it clear that they were not going to let Flanigan be the one to beat them. The Wolfpack made it a priority to send double teams to Flanigan any time he went with his back to the basket. It had been an emphasis as Flanigan has been effectively using a post game this year at Ole Miss.
In his fifth year of college basketball, Flanigan has seen a lot of basketball. As a guy who’s taking nearly 15 shots a game, Flanigan could have forced a lot of things. However, the senior played in the system Tuesday night, doing different things to help the team win. Flanigan finished with 15 PTS, 10 REB, 3 AST, and 3 BLKs. His patience was on full display and he continued to find quality looks and draw fouls.
Moussa Cisse is cleared to play
This one is tougher to write about becasue it doesn’t particularly pertain to the game. However, when The Rebel Walk learned that Moussa Cisse was out warming up with the rest of the team we had to take notice. Players can go out and take shots pregame but not in game gear. Cisse was in layup lines, stretches, and all the activities pregame as the rumor had begun to spread.
In the postgame press conference, Coach Beard addressed the situation by confirming that Cisse is now cleared by the NCAA to play for Ole Miss this season. After what felt like a situation with no end in sight, now the Rebels have a second rim0-protecting big able to go here soon.
It becomes a “what we learned” situation as Cisse will now add a key piece to a front court that needed a pick-me-up. Ole Miss has struggled at rebounding this year and despite the 20-point win, the Rebs still lost the rebounding battle to NC State, 43-39. It was getting dangerously close to becoming a bigger problem for this Ole Miss team. Now, Cisse will be there to help as last season at Oklahoma State he posted a 28.1 defensive rebounding percentage. That was the best in the Big XII and top-1o in the NCAA.
Cisse also gives Ole Miss a quality center option when they want to go without Jamarion Sharp, who’s been getting around 20 minutes per game. This gives the Rebels a second elite rim protector and adds another layer to this defense that is coming together quickly. Cisse will raise the ceiling of this defense and this team.
Ole Miss hosts Memphis this Saturday, December 2 at 1:00 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.
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.