Zone defense that befuddled Mississippi State players gets a lot of credit for the way Ole Miss dismantled the Bulldogs in the second half of an 83-58 win Tuesday night.
So too should the zone in which Breein Tyree found himself in the game’s critical minutes.
More aggressive than he was in the first half, Tyree found the angles and lanes to get to the rim. He hit 3-point shots at a 40-percent rate and hit free throws.
As Ole Miss tries to distance itself from an embarrassing 1-7 start to conference play, a 25-point win against its rival capped a homestand of three-straight wins by an average margin of 18.6 points.
The six-foot-two Tyree, the Rebels’ lone senior, was the driving force in all three wins with totals of 38 points against South Carolina and 23 against Florida before getting the big Four-Oh against the Bulldogs on a layup with 1 minute, 16 seconds left. Nobody had to tell Tyree he was close to 40.
“Yeah, I knew it,” he said.
He then left the game to roaring cheers.
“I’m coming down to the end of my career at Ole Miss. I want to be remembered as one of the best guards to ever come here,” he said.
That’s a quite attainable goal, but it also comes with an asterisk. For that discussion Tyree really needs to be judged as a two-year player.
He’s the career active scoring leader in the SEC now with 1,646 points, but he was just a 9.0-points a game scorer his first two seasons.
It was after his move from point guard to shooting guard with the arrival of coach Kermit Davis that Tyree blossomed as a scorer.
He passed Jarvis Summers on Tuesday night to move into the No. 8 spot on the school’s career points list. He’s 37 points from moving past athletics director Keith Carter for No. 7.
Looking only at two-year players the top Ole Miss scorers are Gerald Glass, Stefan Moody and Marshall Henderson.
Moody had 1,294 points, Henderson 1,293. Both reached one NCAA tournament as has Tyree. The difference is Moody and Henderson both won a game.
Tyree, who has scored 1,050 points over last season and this incomplete one, speaks of NCAA Tournament hope now, but that’s a long shot. Conference starts of 1-7 have consequences.
Also important in this three-game look at what might have been is that Ole Miss has gotten impactful scoring from other players.
Tyree has averaged 33.6 points, but this stretch comes on the heels of eight- and nine-point games against Auburn and LSU.
It was after the Baton Rouge trip that Davis pulled Tyree aside and reminded him of the mortality that college stars sometimes overlook.
Being remembered as one of the best is a given for Tyree. He’ll rise in status with Ole Miss fans if he can help the Rebels pocket more wins like they had Tuesday.