Notes and thoughts from the Rebels’ 83-58 Egg-On-The-Court win over Mississippi State ...
For starters, Ole Miss on March 7 should just get off the bus in Starkville and walk to the locker room in a 1-3-1 formation.
MSU players looked like they’d never seen it last night.
The 1-3-1 can be susceptible to open 3-point shots from the corners, but the Bulldogs often couldn’t get the ball there, and when they did couldn’t knock down the shots.
A 34-percent 3-point team going in, the Bulldogs were just 2 for 16 behind the arc.
Guards Nick Weatherspoon and Tyson Carter, who combine for 25.9 points a game, were held to 3 points, those on a bucket and free throw from Carter. Weatherspoon, the Bulldogs’ third-leading scorer at 12.6 a game, did not score and at times looked out of control trying to get to the rim.
D.J. Stewart, had 16 points, but when left alone the 36-percent 3-point shooter was just 1 for 6 from 3.
The Rebels have often struggled to guard teams off the bounce this season, but that was less an issue last night when they were playing zone.
Zone was good to them, and man defense has gotten better in this stretch.
South Carolina shot 41.1 percent when Ole Miss won 84-70 at the beginning. The Rebels had trouble guarding big forward Maik Kotsar when he drove to the rim.
Florida, though, shot just 33.3 percent and MSU 36.7.
The Rebels forced 17 turnovers last night and turned it over just seven times themselves. They had a 27-11 edge in points off turnovers, and were just minus-2 on the glass against an MSU team that leads the SEC in rebound margin at plus-8.0.
That’s the kind of defense upon which Kermit Davis has built his reputation.
Rebels guard Breein Tyree and MSU’s extremely athletic power forward Reggie Perry entered the game as the SEC’s third- and fourth-leading scorers.
Perry was averaging 17.4 points. This morning his 24 points and eight rebounds make the box score shine, but the Rebels were able to spread out and absorb Perry’s impact. And the zone slowed him down too.
Beginning at the 10:02 mark of the second half Perry would score eight-straight MSU points, but in game time it took him until the 5:13 mark to get there, and there were missed shots and turnovers by his mates in between.
In that same stretch Ole Miss guard Devontae Shuler had seven of his 16 points, and Tyree had eight of his career-high 40.
After being contained by Auburn and LSU Tyree has reasserted himself as one of the dominant scorers in the SEC.
In the last two games he’s really shown his ability to get in a zone on offense.
The Rebels, though, don’t win last night without 18 points on 7-for-12 shooting from juco transfer center Khadim Sy, his best game against an SEC opponent.
Sy was scoring when Shuler wasn’t, and he became that key supporting cast figure that Blake Hinson sometimes is. Hinson, at 10.6-points-a-game scorer, had six points last night on a couple of 3-pointers.
He was unable to get into the paint early on and seemed to try less after that.
All 83 Ole Miss points came from the starters, not a comforting thought.
When a guy like Tyree gets in rhythm like he has in the second halves of the last two games you want him taking shots, but this is not a workable model for the long term.
Carlos Curry, Franco Miller and John McBride – all inserted in the final minute – played almost as much as Austin Crowley who was on the floor for only 2 minutes.
Bryce Williams got 5 minutes and did not attempt a shot.
Antavion Collum played 28 minutes and didn’t hurt the Rebels. He had three rebounds and no turnovers and was successful in spacing out the fouls of the bigs.
For all the enthusiasm that’s come from three-straight home wins by an average margin of 18.6 points the hole dug by a 1-7 SEC start may still be too much to overcome.
Davis routinely says when you play in the SEC you always have chances, but you obviously have fewer as the days slip off the calendar.
None of these three wins are Quadrant 1 in status, and the Rebels have just one Q1 win, that coming against NET Rankings No. 20 Penn State in Brooklyn in November.
Oh, there have been chances. The LSU and Auburn home games -- in which the Rebels had second-half leads and lost by a combined five points – would have been huge.
Now Ole Miss has three remaining Q1 opportunities – at Kentucky Saturday, at Auburn Feb. 25 and at MSU March 7 – and will have to sweep those games – or make a deep SEC Tournament run -- to have as many Q1 wins as it had last year when it was an NCAA Tournament No. 8 seed.
Expectations, though, were adjusted in a 1-7 SEC start, and suddenly an NIT bid seems more attractive if the Rebels can finish strong and earn one.
Whether this team plays in postseason or not it at least needs to pick off a few more teams like it did this week to hopefully develop its young players and keep a mindset of momentum for next season when several new pieces will have to play key roles.