Terence Davis, Breein Tyree and Sebastian Saiz celebrate after 85-80 win over Syracuse on Saturday. Rebels will take on Georgia Tech Tuesday. Courtesy of Josh McCoy
An emphatic 85-80 win over Syracuse on Saturday brought the Rebels one step closer to their goal of an NIT Championship.
After a first-round victory over Monmouth, the Rebels traveled to Syracuse, New York, for a match against the No. 1 seeded team in the tournament. The Orange was an NCAA Tournament bubble team, but a weak RPI and limited victories against top teams kept it on the outside looking in.
Saturday’s game saw the Rebels shoot 29-62 from the field and make 15 3-pointers. Sophomore guard Terence Davis led the way for the Rebels, scoring 30 points, 18 of which came from beyond the 3-point line. Aiding Davis on the offensive end, Ole Miss found consistent success with transfers Cullen Neal and Deandre Burnett putting double-digit points on the board. Burnett’s 19 and Neal’s 15 helped overcome a Syracuse team known for staunch, scrappy defense.
At the other end of the court, the defensive effort was led by senior Sebastian Saiz, a pillar of consistency for the Rebels over his four years in Oxford. Saiz led the team with 12 rebounds and three steals, helping the Rebels out-rebound Syracuse 38-36. The Spanish veteran has been a centerpiece of head coach Andy Kennedy’s program this season, starting every game and leading the team and SEC in rebounds by a substantial margin.
Despite trailing at the half, Ole Miss came out of the locker room ready to overcome anything Jim Boeheim and the Syracuse offense threw at it. The Rebels dominated the first two minutes of the second half, going on a 9-0 run. The quick scores gave Ole Miss a 45-38 lead and helped shift the momentum drastically.
With 3:39 remaining in the game, Syracuse tied the game at 74-74 after Andrew White scored two 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions. The Rebels, not to be outdone, quickly countered with two 3-pointers of their own from Burnett and Neal. Smart game management from Kennedy saw out the rest of the match, and once the final buzzer sounded, the Rebels had extended their lead to five.
Hoping to utilize momentum and newfound confidence, the Rebels will now prepare to face the Yellow Jackets at home Tuesday night. No. 6 seeded Georgia Tech reached the quarterfinals after victories over Indiana and Belmont. And while Georgia Tech’s 90-61 over Syracuse in the ACC Tournament made waves around the NCAA, it will be traveling to Oxford to face an Ole Miss team peaking at just the right time.
A win on Tuesday would advance the Rebels to the semifinals of the NIT for the third time in program history. With a healthy team fresh off an impressive victory, Ole Miss fans and players alike are excited, and rightfully so, about an opportunity to make history in front of a home crowd.
Who: Georgia Tech
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 21
Where: The Pavilion