The Ole Miss Rebels beat the Murray State Racers 78-73 Thursday evening in the Pavilion, but the game was not as close as the score entailed.
The Rebels ended the first half up 43-31, thanks to the early contributions from Deandre Burnett and Terence Davis. Burnett finished with 24 points, and Davis finished with 16. The Rebels continued the impressive showing into the second half and found themselves up over the Racers 72-56 with 4:40 remaining in the game. Then the team found itself struggling to close another game as Murray State went on an incredible run and was only trailing by four points with 18 seconds left to play in the game.
“I thought for about 32 minutes we played pretty good. We defended in the second half. The zone was as exact as I’ve seen it. We had good ball movement. We only had 3 turnovers with under eight minutes to play, and we finish with 11 turnovers,” head coach Andy Kennedy said.
This continues a season trend of Ole Miss allowing teams to come back late in games and struggle to close out. Part of the issue for the Rebels is the lack of production from the overall team and the dependence upon key players in each game. Along with the impressive showing from Burnett and Davis, Sebastian Saiz tallied his fifth double-double of the season and finished the game with 15 points and 15 rebounds.
“Doubled him. He’s going to get doubled every game. Why would you be scared of our other postmen? We need other guys to step up. Sebas has been solid, but sometimes we’re asking him to get out of his lane. As inefficient as we are on the perimeter, if Sebas isn’t out there, we are really limited,” Kennedy said about the pressure Murray State put on Saiz and the contribution from other players.
The team has shown flashes of greatness and the ability to compete with each team it has played this season, but the lack of consistency in effort and play keeps the team from showing how good it can be.
“This team has to live on a razor’s edge as it relates to focus, toughness and execution. We refuse to live on that edge because it’s difficult to live there. That’s where we’re going to have to live if we want to win games,” Kennedy said.
“We’ve got to keep the focus for 40 minutes. We’re 7-3. We’ve got great guys. We’ve shown we’re capable of playing against anybody. We just have to keep it up for a whole game,” Saiz said about the team’s play and the current status of the team.
Ole Miss is aware of its deficiencies that need to be fixed moving forward as the team gets closer to SEC play. With an increase in focus in effort and defense, this team knows it can be much better.
The Rebels return to action Monday against Bradley.