Notes and thoughts from the Rebels’ 84-70 win over South Carolina …
It’s kind of a cliché sometimes to say a win like this “stops the bleeding,” so I don’t. There is still bandaging that needs to be done for this team.
Kermit Davis thought it was the Rebels’ most complete game, and I agree.
The biggest difference last night was that Ole Miss finished the game strong after losing late second-half leads in previous home games against Arkansas, LSU and Auburn. They still had some warts, still a team that lost a step in the second half as teams with a thin bench often do. That will likely become more evident as the games and minutes pile up this month.
But at least last night when South Carolina made runs Ole Miss had answers … or at least the same answer two times with Breein Tyree and his career-high 38 points.
There are nights when you look at Ole Miss and think no one’s helping Tyree hit clutch shots. It’s true that sometimes the Rebels look discombobulated when Tyree’s out of the game. However, if Tyree’s in the game Davis wants him taking the clutch shot every time.
Last night it was a burst from Tyree that stopped two different South Carolina runs that cut a 17-point lead to eight and a 19-point lead to 10.
Ole Miss had lost eight of its last nine going into the game. People have asked about this team’s chemistry. I don’t know that they hold hands and sing Kumbaya before games, but chemistry often shows itself in effort, and I don’t get that effort is a problem right now. If it was the Rebels would not have started the game with the defensive intensity they showed in the first half when they held the Gamecocks to 34.5 percent shooting, even lower in the earlier stages of the game.
The Gamecocks shot 48.1 percent in the second half which to me speaks to the lack of bench play.
Speaking of bench play …
The Rebels got a spark from freshman Antavion Collum last night.
Davis went to Collum earlier and a little more than he usually does when the Rebels lost 73-63 at LSU on Saturday, but that was a product of foul trouble with other players.
Last night Collum played more and was more effective with five rebounds and three assists in 16 minutes.
He had a couple of testosterone moments where he felt like he had to insert himself into the offense and missed shots that weren’t really close. After each decision Davis yanked him.
It’s evident, though, that Collum is working hard and wants to earn playing time. At this time it looks like the heart is right, and the effort is there which means the decision-making will come.
He had a really nice bounce pass from the key to the low post to connect with Tyree for a bucket and foul. He made non-box score plays too.
Davis indicated that Collum, 6-foot-7 and thick, was playing because of a mild knee injury that’s taking freshman Sammy Hunter out of the mix right now. Truthfully, Hunter hasn’t been much in the mix lately with just 2 minutes in both the Georgia and Auburn games. He played 11 minutes at LSU (see foul trouble above).
The other thing that stood out to me last night was that Blake Hinson for a second-straight game showed a willingness to put the ball on the floor and drive. After a month and a half of hearing Davis say he was settling for 3-point shots Hinson appears to be trying to remake himself, and that’s a good thing.
Even when all things are going right this is a team that just doesn’t guard the bounce extremely well. That showed up as South Carolina forward Maik Kotsar had 19 points on 7 for 11 shooting and did not attempt a 3. Most of that was not catching the ball in position but by beating a defender with the dribble.
In the postgame Davis spun the conversation forward and said he thinks this team has some good basketball ahead. “Win February,” he said.
A whole lot of January is still fresh in the mind.
The reality is Ole Miss, even though it won at Georgia, is a better home team than road team which is normal for a team with little experience for half its playing rotation. A few plays made here and there, and the record at home really would be better than it is now.
I don’t think there’s a postseason after this regular season, but if Ole Miss can take a few steps forward and win some of these remaining home games it will take some confidence into next season when it will have an infusion of talent – young talent so the same risks and pitfalls apply – but more talent.