In dramatic fashion, the Ole Miss Rebels (17-11) overcame a late Mississippi State (14-13) comeback effort to post an 87-82 victory in Starkville. Led by strong performances from freshman Breein Tyree and senior leader Sebastian Saiz, the Rebels led for much of the game but a last-minute score from State’s I.J. Ready tied the game at 67 and sent the teams into overtime. From that point on, it was all Ole Miss. Here are three key takeaways from Tuesday’s win:
Tyree can score when it counts
Tyree, a point guard from Somerset, New Jersey, has seen his fair share of ups and downs this year. After starting the season seeing more of the bench than the court, Tyree gradually proved to head coach Andy Kennedy why he deserves to play. In the first overtime alone, he hit a three-point shot, converted a three-point play and drained two free throws. Freshmen have a tendency to get caught up in the excitement of big games, especially cross-state rivalry matches, but Tyree’s maturity exceeds his age. As the Rebels exited Humphrey Coliseum, State fans were shouting obscenities, and a few players, including coach Kennedy, were shouting right back. But not Tyree. With his hands forming a “W,” he calmly and cooly walked back into the locker room.
Does Saiz read The Daily Mississippian sports section?
After last week’s disappointing performance against Arkansas, we ran a game summary that asked, “Where was Saiz?” He posted just five points and five rebounds against the Razorbacks, far from the double-double norm to which Ole Miss fans have become accustomed. Well, Saiz decided to respond Tuesday night, and he did so in a big way. The 6-foot-9-inch Spanish power forward was good for an impressive 23 points and 10 rebounds against the Bulldogs. Simply put, he dominated the floor. Whether or not that performance was inspired by something personal or perhaps an article in a local student newspaper is neither here nor there. What’s important is that Saiz is back and hopefully peaking at just the right time.
NCAA Tournament update
From a strictly statistical standpoint, things aren’t looking great for the Rebels’ postseason dreams. The top 68 teams in the country are accepted into the NCAA Tournament and, although that may sound optimistic, Ole Miss’ RPI, a combined measure of strength of schedule and results, is currently ranked No. 67. Could be worse, right? Yes, actually. The Division I Men’s Basketball Committee, the group tasked with selecting the 68 teams, has publicly declared it will be putting less emphasis on RPI this year. The Rebels have only beaten two top-50 RPI teams this season, Vanderbilt and Tennessee, which are ranked 49 and 50, respectively. With Missouri, Alabama and South Carolina rounding out the season, the Ole Miss will need three huge wins to preserve its dreams of March Madness.
Next up for the Rebels: The University of Missouri Tigers
Where: At home at The Pavilion
When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday