Brian Scott Rippee, Ole Miss Spirit contributor
The Rebels came out of the gates a little sluggish, and Kennedy attributed some of that to fatigue. Ole Miss turned the ball over five times in the first four minutes of the game, but took a 29-26 lead into the half largely due to the fact that Missouri went just 8-21 from the field in the first 20 minutes. Sebastian Saiz got in foul trouble, and did not have a shot attempt in the second half. It was a struggle all afternoon for the senior. But his ten second half points - including two big three pointers down the stretch - were needed by the Rebels as Missouri went 20-35 from the field in the half, and nearly won its first road game in its last 33 tries. Frankie Hughes led the Tigers with 22 points, and hit a couple of big three pointers in the late minutes that kept the Tigers in the game.
Ole Miss‘ problem all year has been getting big defensive stops to put teams away. It allowed Missouri to hang around, and the Tigers took a 72-71 lead with under four minutes left due in part to Marcanvis Hymon getting hit with a technical foul on a play at the basket. But the Rebels got just enough stops in the final three minutes to secure their 18th win of the season.
Tyree and Burnett got to the rim and hit big shots in the late minutes when needed. Kennedy’s team also hit 20-21 second half free throws, and put the game on ice when Missouri was forced to foul. Ole Miss is one of the best free throw shooting teams in the SEC, and that proved true again in this one.
It wasn’t Ole Miss’ sharpest performance by any stretch, and Missouri has been playing better basketball lately as Kim Anderson’s young team tries to find its footing. Kennedy said in the postgame that it was a bottom line business, and the only thing that matters is which column the game can be chalked up to. Ole Miss can file this one the win column. It was a difficult game against an opponent that has struggled mightily this season, but then again nothing has come easy for this team this year.
Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy
On the win: “The credit goes to Missouri. We’re up 11 with about 12 to play despite Sebas being a non-factor until the end because of fouls. Despite T.D. being a non-factor until making a couple of shots at the end because of fouls. We were just kind of grinding our way through it. We turned the ball over crazily the last two games, and we thought we had that figured out. Then next thing you know you let Frankie Hughes get open, and the kid had a career game. Freshman knocks down some three. Then we make a mistake and leave Barnett open. Knocks down a 3. Then VanLeer at the end; what an incredible shot that was. Proud of my guys for just staying the course. You know how it is this time of the year. Only one thing matters, and that’s whether or not this one goes in the right column or the left column. It goes in the right column for us. We’ll take it and move forward.” On Saiz’s late-game 3: “He’s really been struggling from 3 this season. Missouri, the first time we played them, was last in the SEC in 3-point efficiency. They made 11. Today they’re last and they made 10. There’s a trend. Maybe it’s a little bit more us than them. I thought, again, (Missouri) continues to battle, continues to battle. I thought they got better. I’m just proud of my guys because when you have games where your best player in Sebastian Saiz is really a non-factor because of the foul issues, and T.D. never really got into a rhythm, for the other guys to step up and make the plays that we needed them to in order to secure the victory, that’s the bottom line. On Tyree’s late-game, deciding jumper: “I don’t think he’s scared of the moment. He’s like every freshman and he needs to do a better job of recognizing it — when to go, when to stop. He was 6 for 6 from the free throw line, and that’s a hard shot, about an 8-footer in that short corner. Huge make for us. K.G. gets the technical foul. I have to trust the officials based on what transpired. They get two shots and the ball. All the sudden momentum had swung. I was proud of our guys for answering the bell.” On Ole Miss making 25 of 27 free throws: “We’ve been pretty consistent with that all year. Marcanvis Hymon was the only guy that’s really been the hiccup for us. I see he goes 0 for 0. Game plan accomplished. As long as he doesn’t shoot any, he can’t miss any. Justas (Furmanavicius) had been shooting them good. He had a rough night at State. But we lead the nation in free throws made. It isn’t a fluke. It’s, strategically, what we’re trying to do, putting pressure on the paint. And then we’ve got guys who can make them. We’ve made them all year.” On the team’s approach going forward: “I just want to win the next one. I don’t think about all. I think about next. What’s next? Now next is Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Obviously a chore. Once we get through that one, we’ll focus on what’s ahead.”
OXFORD, Miss. -- (AP) Deandre Burnett scored 28 points, Breein Tyree added 15 and Mississippi beat Missouri 80-77 on Saturday.
Ole Miss (18-11, 9-7 Southeastern Conference) won its second straight after an overtime victory over Mississippi State on Tuesday. Missouri (7-21, 2-14) dropped its 34th straight road game.
The Rebels had chances to put the game away but the Tigers managed to hang around, shooting 20 of 35 (57.1 percent) in the second half. Missouri missed two 3-pointers in the final seconds that could have tied the game. The Tigers shot 10 of 30 (33.3 percent) from beyond the arc.
Frankie Hughes led Missouri with 22 points while Jordan Barnett scored 14.
Mississippi: It was a must-win for the Rebels, who are fighting for a postseason berth. The NCAA Tournament is a long shot, but Ole Miss has a chance to help its case during the final week of the regular season with upcoming games against Alabama and South Carolina.
Missouri: The Tigers continued to show signs of improvement after losing by only 10 points to No. 11 Kentucky on Tuesday but still lost their fourth straight game.
Mississippi: The Rebels travel to Alabama on Wednesday.
Missouri: The Tigers host Texas A&M on Tuesday.