Then came Tuesday night at Mississippi State.
Tyree carried Ole Miss in an 87-82 win, scoring a team-leading and career-high 24 points on 9 of 15 shooting. He looked nothing like the tentative, wide-eyed freshman who needed months to make an impact as he worked his way back from an ACL injury suffered as a high school senior.
Instead, Tyree played the role of ball-dominant guard and leading scorer; the type of point guard head coach Andy Kennedy has preferred (think Chris Warren and Stefan Moody) in his 11-year Ole Miss tenure.
“We’re just seeing great work with the trainer and recovery at its finest,” Tyree said. “On Monday, I wasn’t really dunking the ball, but against Mississippi State I was out there jumping. It felt great to get another body. I felt like myself in high school. It was great. I’m getting a bunch of love from my family. They’re all proud of me.”
Tyree was recruited and signed as a three-star prospect out of St. Joseph High School in Metuchen, N.J., in the fall of 2015. But the ACL injury impeded his development and delayed his Ole Miss career from taking off. He didn’t assume his position as the team’s primary point guard until Jan. 14 against South Carolina. He’s played 20 or minutes in seven of 10 games since. His 36 against Mississippi State were a season-high.
He's still a work in progress. Lost in Tyree’s impressive night — which included a pair of highlight-reel dunks, one of which appeared on SportsCenter — is his initial struggles. He turned the ball over five times early and finished with seven overall.
But Ole Miss was without senior Rasheed Brooks due to a medical issue, and sophomore Donte Fitzpatrick-Dorsey hasn’t been able to gain much rotational momentum, his minutes few and far between. As a result, the Rebels played with all of seven healthy bodies.
Kennedy had no choice but to leave Tyree in. Good thing he did.
“The reality is, if Rasheed is with us, I probably don’t allow Breein that much opportunity because he had five turnovers over early in the game,” Kennedy said. “I probably wouldn’t have had him in the game. But just based on sheer numbers, boy, did he step up big time.”
Ole Miss was able to overcome an off night by emerging star Terence Davis, who notched a double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds) but was a mere 4 of 16 from the floor and 1 of 6 from 3. He was also responsible for a late-game gaff — a tie-up, jump-ball possession — that resulted in the tying score for Mississippi State at the end of regulation. The Rebels’ leading scorer, Deandre Burnett, was equally ineffective, shooting 1 for 13 from the floor and 0 of 9 from 3.
Tyree, though, scored eight points to open the overtime period. Ole Miss only extended its lead from the there and came out with a win — the seventh in the last eight tries against the Bulldogs — in the first of a two-game week.
The Rebels (17-11, 8-7 SEC) host Missouri (7-20, 2-13 SEC) on Saturday. Tipoff is set for 2:30 p.m. CT, and the game will be broadcast by SEC Network.
“It just shows that we can take a hit, go against adversity and come out with a win,” he said. “I want to be a facilitator. More getting my teammates open — getting T.D. shots, getting ‘Dre shots, (Sebastian Saiz) inside. But when guys aren’t going, I can also create for myself. That’s what I did (at Mississippi State). I was making shots, and we got a win.”
* Ole Miss is one of just three SEC schools — joining Kentucky and Florida — without a sub-100 RPI loss. … Ole Miss checks in at No. 66 in the latest Ratings Percentage Index released by the NCAA. Mizzou is at No. 242. … Ole Miss is 7-11 against the RPI Top 150, with wins over Vanderbilt (No. 49), Tennessee (No. 55), Auburn (No. 77), Memphis (No. 113) and MSU (No. 135). … The Rebels’ 11 losses this season have come against No. 4 Baylor, No. 8 Florida, No. 10 Kentucky, No. 21 Creighton, No. 30 South Carolina, No. 32 Middle Tennessee, No. 35 Arkansas, No. 36 Virginia Tech, No. 52 Tennessee, No. 57 Georgia and No. 94 Texas A&M. … Ole Miss boasts the 38th toughest strength of schedule, and the Rebels have played the 55th toughest non-conference schedule according to ESPN.com.
* The Rebels have won six straight against Missouri and five of their last seven SEC games. … Head coach Andy Kennedy recently moved past former Kentucky coach Rick Pitino into 19th on the SEC career coaching victories list and now has 229 wins at Ole Miss. With the win over Mississippi State, Kennedy earned his 250th victory as a head coach. … Kennedy is the first coach in SEC history post 11 straight winning seasons after taking over a program with four constitutive losing season. … The Rebels have hit 180 of 219 (.822) attempts from the free throw line over the last eight games. Ole Miss leads the league in SEC play making 76.0 percent of its attempts and leads the nation in made free throws this year with 562. … Saiz has topped both 1,000 points and 900 boards in his career and joins Rebel great Murphy Holloway as the only two players in school history with 1,000 points and 900 rebounds. Saiz is also first player in school history and just the 16th player in SEC history with 1,000 points, 900 rebounds and 100 blocked shots.