Notes and thoughts from the Rebels’ 67-58 loss to No. 24 Butler …
If you were counting on basketball to ease your battered and bruised football season, well, you might need to consider alternate plans.
It’s not time to abandon basketball by any stretch, but this team has issues right now.
It would be easy to say that they have issues with newcomers who have adapted quickly and aren’t playing as close to their potential as they might soon.
That’s part of it, but there’s more.
As Kermit Davis pointed out last night the Rebels have preseason All-SEC guards in Breein Tyree and Devontae Shuler, but they’re not playing like All-SEC. At least not enough and certainly not together.
Meanwhile, Butler’s all-whatever player played like an All-American last night, hitting 3s and backing down defenders in the paint and hitting contested shots.
Kamar Baldwin, a 6-1 guard, was 11-for-16 from the floor, 4-for-5 from 3 and 5-for-5 from the free throw line.
It kind of sounds like he was the difference in the game, but you can let somebody’s best player go off like – if you contain the others – and still win … provided you generate some offense yourself.
Baldwin had no teammate score in double figures, and Ole Miss went through droughts of low scoring and poor play.
For a period of 4 minutes, 14 seconds in the first half Ole Miss was 0-for-4 from the floor with three turnovers. Butler built a 22-8 lead then.
Tyree had 22 and shot well for the Rebels – 4-for-5 from 3 – but Shuler – just 2-for-10 from the floor – and normally reliable KJ Buffen and Blake Hinson combined for just 16 points.
Khadim Sy showed improvement on the offensive end and finished with 12 points on 6-for-9 shooting and four rebounds. He had only two fouls and passed for three assists in a very productive 29 minutes.
It’s the kind of game you want from a role player if your established scorers are holding up their end of things.
Last night the Rebels weren’t, nor were they against Oklahoma State.
There were 12 turnovers, one less than Butler, and rebounds were even at 32.
This is about shot-making, an issue that hovered beneath the surface in an exhibition and four home games when the Rebels were held under 70 points three times and surpassed 71 points just once.
Here’s the glass half-full hot take: The Rebels are 5-3. Through eight games last year they were 6-2, but last year’s schedule did not include a non-conference game against Memphis.
After their second loss the Rebels were able to run off 10-straight wins.
The first eight of those 10 games included a road trip to Illinois State and Middle Tennessee in Nashville, but most of that run was comprised of buyout games at home.
When the eight games were finished the Rebels were playing with momentum and confidence that propelled them to wins over ranked opponents Auburn and Mississippi State, games that were massive with their Net Ranking and ultimate NCAA bid.
Shuler has played well before, including the first three games of this season. He will play well again.
Newcomers will find a comfort zone.
Here’s the glass half-empty hot take: Ole Miss is 5-3, the same record as its woeful women’s team.
Shuler will play well again, but when? Since shooting 54.5 percent over the first three games Shuler is shooting 21 percent over the next five.
He didn’t look like he was about to flip a switch last night.
Luis Rodriguez, the star of the off-season, out for eight weeks with a foot injury, so while Blake Hinson is back, Ole Miss can’t seem to get its best players available together.
The newcomers will find a comfort zone, but will it be soon enough to make an impact to allow for a big run through December and a fast start to SEC play?
Bottom line take: This team has the talent to be an NCAA tournament bid contender, but the calendar waits for no one. Veterans and newcomers alike need to find a groove soon.