The senior Ole Miss guard scored a career-high 43 points — the third-most in an SEC game in the last 20 seasons and the most by a player in a league game since 2013 — to lead the Rebels to an 86-78 win over in-state rival Mississippi State. With the win, Ole Miss moved to 19-11 overall and 9-8 in SEC games.
It was a fitting home finale for one of the greatest players to ever don an Ole Miss basketball uniform, and one of the greatest individual performances by any athlete in any sport in school history. No player has scored more points in a game since 1989 — the greatest one-on-one duel in league history between Chris Jackson of LSU and Gerald Glass, who alone scored 55 points and 53 points, respectively, in another Ole Miss win.
This was the type of game head coach Andy Kennedy envisioned when he signed Moody as a relatively obscure junior college player by way of Kilgore College two years ago. Moody wasn’t even ranked among the top-100 junior college players in the country when he committed and signed with the Rebels. Kennedy had long targeted and coveted him.
There were doubts about his size. Doubts about his position. Doubts about his departure from Florida International after one season.
On Wednesday night, as Moody had already done time and again, Kennedy’s star guard proved his evaluation right once more.
“It was a special night,” Kennedy said. “He understood the importance of the game.”
Moody finishes his Ole Miss career having never lost to Mississippi State. Sure, the Rebels lost to the Bulldogs in January, but Moody didn’t play due to a hamstring injury he suffered against South Carolina. Ole Miss has now won five of the last six in the series.
His home finale was important to him, and he imposed his will early and often. Though he started off somewhat slowly, scoring only nine points to five turnovers in the game’s first eight minutes, he finished with a flourish. He scored 24 points in the first half, and had only three more turnovers the rest of the way.
In all, he was 11 of 24 from the floor and 6 of 12 from 3. He made 15 of his 18 free throw attempts, and he added six assists and two rebounds for good measure.
“He obviously had a monster night,” Kennedy said. “He was in great rhythm early. Really, really led us with his energy. He played like a senior, all-league champion would play. On Monday he’ll probably be the first back-to-back winner of the Bailey Howell Award (given to the best college basketball player in Mississippi). I’m going ahead and predicting that. I think he’s going to win it again.”
“It means a lot,” Moody, who entered the night leading the SEC in scoring, said of the win. “It’s very special. It’s something I’ll probably remember for the rest of my life.”
The path to the NCAA Tournament is pretty bleak for Ole Miss. The Rebels likely have to win the SEC Tournament in Nashville, Tenn., next week to secure an automatic bid simply because their resume isn’t strong enough. They’re 3-9 against top-100 RPI teams.
But the postseason and what comes next can wait for now. Because not since Dexter McCluster finished with 324 all-purpose yards in a blowout win over Tennessee in 2009 has an Ole Miss athlete been so dominant or in control.
Sometimes it’s better to just sit back and enjoy the show. And Moody was the star, co-star, director and producer Wednesday night.
“This kid, for us, he’s delivered for us in big-time ways,” Kennedy said. “The ultimate playmaker that I’ve coached here in 10 years.”