OXFORD • Ole Miss got its two best guards playing well together on both ends of the floor, and that gave the Rebels back-to-back SEC wins for the first time this season.
Breein Tyree scored 23 points, and Devontae Shuler added 14 with five assists, and Ole Miss defeated former Rebels point guard Michael White and his Florida Gators 68-51 on Saturday afternoon before 7,760 fans at The Pavilion.
It was just the third SEC win for Ole Miss (12-11, 3-7) but the second this week after an 84-70 victory against South Carolina on Wednesday.
Before defeating the Gamecocks, Ole Miss had lost eight of nine.
Guard play on Saturday signaled what Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis hopes is a turnaround for the month. His challenge to his players has been “win February.”
That seems more realistic after this past week.
Breein the pain
After a career-high 38 against South Carolina, Tyree was 9 for 19 from the floor and 4 for 6 from 3-point range. He was 3 for 4 from the arc after halftime when the Rebels held a 33-27 lead.
They never lost the lead in the second half, due in large part to their defense.
“That’s the best that we’ve defended for 40 minutes, probably all year,” Davis said “Down the stretch when the game was at 10 or 12 we just kept getting stop after stop.”
Florida (14-9, 6-4 SEC) shot just 33.3 percent for the game, just 5 for 23 from 3 (21.7 percent). Some of those misses were wide-open looks.
Tyree and Shuler had five steals between them, and Ole Miss had 16 points off 15 Florida turnovers.
“It started with us in practice, going through hard times in practice of trying to get stops on defense,” Shuler said. “That’s what coach really focuses on in practice. We feel like we have a good chance to keep going, get wins on the road and pull the games out.”
It was hands in the passing lanes and swatting at the dribble from Tyree and Shuler in an 8-0 spurt in the middle of the half that helped Ole Miss thwart Florida momentum and regain control.
A 3-pointer by Florida’s Noah Locke cut the Rebels’ advantage to 40-36. In the next 3 minutes, 15 seconds Shuler and Tyree each had steals, and Shuler had two buckets and an assist.
Tyree did not play against the Gators in a 71-55 loss in Gainesville on Jan. 14 because of a lower back contusion.
Center Khadim Sy was also out serving a one-game suspension.
Frontcourt play was important for the Rebels on Saturday in a very physical game with KJ Buffen leading the way with 14 points and nine rebounds.
Ole Miss was minus-1 on the glass.
“Those (guards) played like a really good college backcourt today. Breein affected the game in so many ways, Devontae had big steals, hands on balls. They were terrific,” Davis said.