TJ’s Takeaways: What We Learned From Ole Miss’ 75-64 Win over Eastern Washington
OXFORD, Miss. — Last night the Ole Miss men’s basketball team concluded its second game of the 2023-2024 season. Similar to the first game, the Rebels found their groove in the second half to pull away, winning by a score of 75-64 over a veteran Eastern Washington team.
This series 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. Hopefully this article answers some of the questions fans may be asking thus far into season. If you’re looking for a recap of the game, don’t worry we’ve got you covered. Check it out HERE.
Behind a career-high 29 points from Allen Flanigan, the Rebels defeated Eastern Washington to improve to 2-0 this season. The Eagles are a sneaky team and are an experienced group that made it to the second round of the NIT last year after winning the Big Sky conference. Outside of Flanigan, Ole Miss got larger contributions from Matthew Murrell (12 PTS), Jaemyn Brakefield (8 PTS), and freshman Rashaud Marshall (9 PTS).
Now let’s get into a few takeaways.
Allen Flanigan is playing confident and playing his best basketball in two years
If you read the write up from the Ole Miss Hoops handbook, I was buying into Flanigan based on the ability he displayed at Auburn. This year may be the next level to it. Flanigan has thrived as an isolation scorer this season where he has scored at a 60% clip.
Flanigan has showed craft in finding ways to attack the basket where he has finished. For an Ole Miss team that has several guys who excel more on the perimeter and in the mid-range, Flanigan has shown to be effective near the rim and in the mid-range. If he can continue to find scoring opportunities and find some consistency or at the least flashes of shooting the ball from the perimeter, his usage numbers will continue to rise.
Deny the Middle, At All Costs
This is how Ole Miss’ defense is going to look. It’s a staple of a Chris Beard team. If you haven’t yet, be sure to look for these as the games go on. Ole Miss’ primary goal is taking away the middle off the ball. The Rebels will have their off ball defender play in-between their man and the ball to prevent the ball from swinging.
In this you’ll see opportunities for open cuts into the lane, and Eastern Washington took advantage. The Rebels’ defense wasn’t perfect last night; there were some mishaps. However, the defense was stingy enough to take care of business. Ole Miss has a lot of versatility in the back court and can switch a lot of things. This made it tough for Eastern Washington who shot 4-22 from three for the night.
One area for improvement is that Ole Miss will have to have to keep the ball farther from the basket, especially at the top of the key, making that high low pass to the key tougher. That was an area of emphasis for the Eagles last night. With Ole Miss fronting the post, it opened up over-the-top passes into the paint. Part of this helped lead to the 38 points in the paint for the Eagles last night.
It’s still early, and Ole Miss is still figuring it all out. This will improve as the season progresses. For now, you can see the signs of what Chris Beard is trying to enact.
The Jaemyn Brakefield Breakout is Coming…
Yes, Brakefield is 3-16 from the field this season. Yes, for the second game in a row, he has struggled to get the ball into the basket. Should fans be concerned? No. Here’s what we can take away from this. Over 56% of Brakefield’s attempts have come at the rim. Ole Miss has found ways to get Brakefield involved and has tried to find ways to play to his strengths. All these things are true.
The reason, I say that Brakefield is going to break out soon is because the quality of looks he’s getting is there. Ole Miss specifically ran a play early in the game that gave him a post feed to face-up isolation that let him work one-on-one. He would finish that attacking to the paint and finishing at the rim. A lot of the looks have allowed Brakefield to turn to the basket and make a play and use his footwork to make counters. There has been little so far to keep him from finding open looks or the shots that he wants. It’s now about finishing, which based off last years numbers provides tons of optimism.
It’s early on but here’s a breakdown of the types of possessions for Brakefield: cuts (5), post-ups (4), isolation (3), transition (3), P&R Ball handler (2), P&R roll man (2). It’s been all versatility for Brakefield in the sense of how Ole Miss uses him.
Buy Stock Now.
Ole Miss Needs Someone to Step Up on the Boards
Against Alabama State, Ole Miss won the rebounding battle, 52-46, with a small margin. In that game, the three starting guards accounted for 50% of the rebounds. Last night, Ole Miss lost the rebounding battle 38-29. Last night, Allen Flanigan led the team in rebounds for the second straight game with 5 respectably.
However, Ole Miss needs some rebounding help in the front court. Jamarion Sharp has been effective, but he played limited minutes last night. This is where the loss of Moussa Cisse comes into play. Rashaud Marshall can find a role if he can rebound, but Ole Miss needs to find someone who can lock it down on the glass.
The old adage is that the team who controls the boards controls the game. Ole Miss is playing thin at the moment, and that creates opportunity. Who will rise up?
(Feature image credit: Ole Miss Athletics)
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.