Ole Miss went and got a road win when it absolutely had to have one Saturday afternoon at Missouri. And the Rebels did so with just eight scholarship players, including one, Deandre Burnett, who played 36 minutes on a high-ankle sprain.
Wins are all that matter as the calendar nears its turn from January to February, not how pretty the wins are. Yes, Missouri entered play with an RPI of 256. The Tigers, record-wise, are bad, and they're the worst team in college basketball in 3-point shooting. Yet they were able to make 11 of 25 for the game and 9 of 17 in the second half. Ole Miss obviously attempted to eliminate inside shots and challenged Missouri to convert from 3. The Tigers did. The Rebels won anyway, and against a Missouri team that lost by only five at Georgia, by five at home to Auburn, by 12 at Alabama and by 11 at LSU.
Despite a trying start to SEC play, the Rebels still have everything in front of them.
Saturday’s win sets up another critical game on Wednesday. Texas A&M is 10-8 on the year following its upset win over Georgia, among the top teams in the conference, setting up a Top 100 RPI opportunity for the Rebels at home. Ole Miss has yet to lose to a team outside of the RPI Top 50, but the Rebels are hurting for quality wins. Back-to-back games against A&M and Baylor (No. 2 in the RPI) present resume-building opportunities that could place Ole Miss right back in the NCAA Tournament discussion, which seemed unthinkable 10 days ago when the Rebels suffered a 22-point loss to Georgia at home.
Overall, Ole Miss is 12-7 (3-4) on the season, with an RPI rank of 43 and a strength of schedule of 8. The Rebels likely need 12 conference wins to really have a case for the NCAA Tournament, but fortunately for them, the schedule has softened after about as difficult a draw (home vs. Kentucky, at Florida) to open SEC games. Now’s the time to push. So far, so good, and Ole Miss took another step against Missouri.
(Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy)
On the win: “I knew this was going to be a battle. We certainly had our share of adversity. (Burnett) was a game-time decision. I eased him in with 36 minutes. We’re just looking for bodies. We’re trying to play our guys. We made some plays down the stretch that allowed us to get a road win and move forward.” On rebounding and turnovers: “I thought, honestly, our effort was outstanding for the most part of the game. We knew we were not going to win if we did not correct that. We didn’t turn it over at our rate per game. We’re just trying to bleed it at the end. I challenged our guys that we needed to make some plays. Cullen (Neal) hit a huge 3, Dre hit a huge 3. You have to make plays, and thankfully we made enough.” On Rasheed Brooks: “We’re blessed. It was the scariest moment of my coaching career to see him go down. Thank God everything is coming back great. Now it’s just a matter of us seeing how he progresses moving forward. We anticipate him rejoining the team, although we don’t know when.”
On Missouri: “They’ve really struggled shooting the ball. Kevin Puryear is a guy we really recruited. Todd (Abernethy) really recruited this kid hard. We felt like we had a real shot at getting him. That kid’s tremendous. He’s been struggling. Goes for 26 and 8, goes 11 for 14 from the field and 4 of 4 from 3. He hit one that I still don’t know how it went in. And then at the end, they made plays. I thought our approach to the game was good. We obviously have our issues as it relates to personnel, and you throw in foul trouble, man, that’s a challenge. Dre, we didn’t even know until game time whether or not he was playing. I really wanted to limit his minutes by giving him 36. That just tells you where we are. He hasn’t even taken a rep since he turned his ankle against Georgia. But our guys continued to fight.” On Terence Davis: “Eleven rebounds in back-to-back games. That is something that we need from him. He’s an athletic kid. He can make plays, he’s an SEC-level athlete, which, quite frankly, we don’t have enough of. He’s one that needs to make plays, and he made plays for us today.”
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- (AP) Sebastian Saiz scored 19 points and hauled in 10 rebounds as Ole Miss defeated Missouri 75-71 on Saturday.
Terrence Davis had 18 points and 11 rebounds, and Deandre Burnett added 14 points, shooting 3 for 6 from 3-point range.
Missouri's Kevin Puryear led all scorers with 26 points to go with eight rebounds, shooting 11-for-14 and hitting all four from long range.
Ole Miss (12-7, 3-4 Southeastern Conference) was up 22-10 within 6 minutes of play, but Missouri steadily closed the gap behind 11-point first halves from Woods and Puryear, and trailed 39-33 at halftime.
The Tigers (5-13, 0-6) put on arguably their best offensive performance of the season in the second half, shooting 9-for-17 from 3-point range and eventually taking a one-point lead following a 3-pointer by Cullen Van Leer with 7:34 remaining.