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A look at the Ole Miss men’s basketball rematch with No. 20 South Carolina

A look at the Ole Miss men’s basketball rematch with No. 20 South Carolina

OXFORD, Miss. — As the Ole Miss Rebels (19-7, 6-7 SEC) find themselves right on the edge of the NCAA Tournament bubble, their remaining five games will make or break the season.

Come Selection Sunday, the Rebels could be one of the 68 teams included in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2019, or they could be on the outside looking in and seeing which teams they will face in the NIT Bracket. Either way, the Rebels have a rematch this afternoon in Oxford against the 20th-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks (21-5, 9-4 SEC) in what is a must-win game for the Rebs. 

Ole Miss is returning home off a tough loss on the road Wednesday night in Starkville against Mississippi State. The Rebels were up by four points heading into halftime; however, they let their lead slip away early on in the second half and were outscored 43-27. The 83-71 loss was the first of two quad one opportunities left for Ole Miss this season. The Rebels have the SEC-leading Alabama Crimson Tide coming into the Pavilion on Wednesday night. However, today, Ole Miss has a very intriguing quad two opportunity against the Gamecocks. 

In the first meeting of the season between the two, the Rebels traveled to Columbia to take on South Carolina. After facing a 12-point deficit in the first half, Ole Miss battled back and only lost by three on the road. The then top-15 ranked Gamecocks were in the midst of a 7-game winning streak heading into the Ole Miss matchup. At the time, South Carolina was one of the hottest teams in the SEC after having wins over Tennessee and Kentucky, so a three-point loss in Columbia was tough but an admirable one for head coach Chris Beard’s squad. 

Since then, Lamont Paris’ South Carolina quad has had quite the dip in form. After the Ole Miss game, South Carolina won pretty handily against a struggling Vanderbilt team, 75-60. Then, the Gamecocks traveled to Auburn in a highly anticipated top-15 matchup. South Carolina didn’t bring its A-game to Neville Arena, like most teams, and lost by a score of 101-61. Coach Paris’ team prides itself on their defensive ability and giving up 101 to Auburn was not something he expected of his squad.

In the Gamecocks’ most recent contest, they welcomed the LSU Tigers into Columbia. South Carolina got out to a fast start and led the Tigers for all of the first half and most of the second; however, the Gamecocks’ lead soon dwindled at the end of the second half and they ended up losing to LSU, 64-63, at home.

Despite two straight losses for Coach Paris’ team, the Gamecocks are still ranked 20th in the nation and tied for 3rd in the SEC. According to Joe Lundardi, ESPN’s bracket expert, South Carolina is currently a projected 7-seed in the NCAA Tournament, compared to Ole Miss, who is currently listed as the second team out of the tournament.

As Ole Miss prepares to take on South Carolina, this is the first of three Q2 games left on the Rebels’ schedule this year. As discussed in the Mississippi State rematch article, I believe Ole Miss needs to finish the season 4-2 with a win or two in Nashville at the SEC Tournament to firmly solidify itself into the dance. With the loss against State on Wednesday, the Rebels need to run the table and go 4-1 in their remaining five games which includes a home game against Texas A&M, one of Lunardi’s last four teams in. 

I know writing “the Rebels should go 4-1” sounds easy to say; however, with the SEC’s best team in Alabama on deck, winning against the Gamecocks will give Ole Miss some breathing room down the stretch. A loss today would make Wednesday night a must-win game for Ole Miss or their tournament hopes are all but dead. 

For a full scouting report on the South Carolina Gamecocks, make sure you check out “Scouting the Opposition” South Carolina Edition. In this article, we are going to discuss why South Carolina has been slumping as of late and where the Rebels can take advantage of the slumping Gamecock squad.

What have the Gamecocks been up to?

The first name to highlight who we did not cover in the first edition of “Scouting the Opposition” is Collin Murray-Boyles. Murray-Boyles is a freshman from Columbia, South Carolina and is averaging 10 ppg, 5 rpg, and 2 apg. Early in the season, he had battled injuries and did not get a lot of minutes for the Gamecocks; however, since SEC play has started, Murray-Boyles has been one of the best freshmen in the SEC and in the entire country.

Murray-Boyles has won SEC Freshman of the Week and is currently in the running for SEC Freshman of the Year. Over his last five games, he has averaged 20 ppg, 7 rpg, with four of those being offensive, and two steals per game. He has been the Gamecocks’ most-consistent scorer over the course of their last three games, tallying 31 against Vandy and 19 against Auburn.

Murray-Boyles typically plays in the post, and he has been really tough to defend because of his mobility at 6-foot-7 and his ability to go left or right off the block. Outside of his scoring ability, he is also a tenacious offensive rebounder. I cannot tell you how many times Murray-Boyles follows his own miss and scores a second-chance bucket. Over the past three games, the Gamecocks rank in the 89th percentile among second-chance buckets, and they also rank in the 97th percentile among % of points scored from second-chance buckets. These stats are mostly due to Murray-Boyles’ offensive rebounding numbers. 

Two other names to watch are Meechie Johnson and Ta’Lon Cooper. We touched on both of these players in our previous article, but Johnson and Cooper’s play of late has been affecting this Gamecock squad. Cooper, for example, is the team’s main source of playmaking. He currently averages around five assists per game; however, during both of Carolina’s losses, Cooper only had three total assists. It’s not just his playmaking that has been decreasing as of late; his scoring has gone down as well. All season he had averaged 10 ppg. During Carolina’s recent losses, Cooper has only scored nine total points, five against LSU and four against Auburn. As one of the most consistent shooters from outside the arc in the SEC, this bodes really well for Ole Miss who has really not played well defensively as of late.

The other name to watch out for is Meechie Johnson. Johnson is Carolina’s premier scoring threat outside of star center BJ Mack. However, Johnson is one of the streakiest shooters in the SEC as of late. Against Auburn, Johnson scored 22 points in one of the most difficult arenas in college hoops. He followed up his 22-point night with zero points in the home defeat to LSU. He played 27 minutes and went 0-4 from the field. Johnson has had these types of performances all year, as he put up blanks from the field in games against Missouri, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt. He has also had 19, 22, and 24-point performances against Georgia, Auburn, and Mississippi State. The question for Ole Miss is, which Meechie Johnson shows up in Oxford today? The good news for Ole Miss is that the Rebels’ D held Johnson to only six points in Columbia, so look for Ole Miss to do the same today.

Outside of those three players, South Carolina’s offense has been roughly the same since the first meeting with Ole Miss this season. They are a very effective shooting team who does not take a lot of attempts. Barring a few lazy turnovers in their half-court sets, Carolina will be the same offensive team Ole Miss played in Columbia. 

What has changed for the Gamecocks is their defensive ability. Giving up 101 to Auburn and a late second-half comeback to LSU has not been a good look for the SEC’s premier defensive team. The Gamecocks have been lackluster at defending points in the paint and have been getting exposed in many pick and roll situations. Teams have been trying to push the pace against Carolina, who plays really slow, and it has been working recently. However, when the ‘Cocks do stop opponents’ transition offense, they have been struggling to defend the pick and roll by giving up free looks under the basket or leaving wide open three point shooters because they are slow to rotate.  

In regards to how the Rebels will fare against the Gamecocks, Ole Miss matches up very well against Lamont Paris’ squad. They have the size and quickness to defend all of South Carolina’s players. Carolina will look to slow the game down whenever they can because they have been extremely good at playing at a slow pace all season. They will also try to take the crowd out of the game with the slow pace. This is something they did not do against Auburn, and it showed. 

Also look for Ole Miss to play a little zone defense. LSU played a little match-up zone defense at the end of both halves, and it seemed to be effective against South Carolina’s offense. This could be a defensive strategy Chris Beard looks to implement, especially with defensive specialist Austin Nunez’s minutes slowly increasing. 

The final player to look out for is backup center Josh Gray. The senior played his second-most minutes all season against the Rebels in Columbia the first time around. Since then, his minutes have slowly decreased. He and center BJ Mack were a very good 1-2 punch in the non-conference, but since the emergence of Collin Murray-Boyles, Gray’s minutes have decreased in conference play. However, look for Gray to get more minutes today against the Rebels as Paris will look to consistently rotate his bigs to give fits to Ole Miss’ big men. This is something State did extremely well against the Rebels by causing Moussa Cisse and Jamarion Sharp to get in early foul trouble. Look for the Gamecocks to do the same so the Rebels will be forced to play a smaller lineup.

All in all, this is going to be the most difficult Q2 game left for Ole Miss, as they have Texas A&M and Georgia left on their schedule. On the bright side, the Rebels have been excellent at home so far this season, having only lost one game. And in the Gamecocks’ latest big away game, they were defeated by 40 in a rambunctious environment. The Ole Miss faithful will have the Pavilion rockin’ on Saturday afternoon, and it will make for a great game with hopefully an Ole Miss victory.

Game Info

Make sure to catch the Ole Miss Rebels as they return home to face the No. 20 South Carolina Gamecocks today at 2:30 p.m. CST. The game will air on the SEC Network. 

(Feature image credit: T. Joshua Boucher/

Coleman Young

Coleman Young

Coleman Young is a 2021 graduate of Ole Miss. Born and raised in Baltimore, Coleman has always been an avid basketball fan, growing up watching the Maryland Terrapins. His love for college hoops grew even more when he attended Ole Miss in 2017. Coleman is a huge fan of all Ole Miss sports as well as the Baltimore Ravens and Orioles. He was previously an Ole Miss College Hoops contributor at

About The Author

Coleman Young

Coleman Young is a 2021 graduate of Ole Miss. Born and raised in Baltimore, Coleman has always been an avid basketball fan, growing up watching the Maryland Terrapins. His love for college hoops grew even more when he attended Ole Miss in 2017. Coleman is a huge fan of all Ole Miss sports as well as the Baltimore Ravens and Orioles. He was previously an Ole Miss College Hoops contributor at

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