There are no moral victories in SEC basketball.
That’s especially true for a basketball team that built a 19-point lead over a nationally ranked squad in its own building and failed to come out with the victory after two overtimes.
The Ole Miss basketball team missed another golden opportunity with the then-No. 17 Auburn Tigers on the ropes in the second half, failing to deliver the knockout punch as the Tigers crawled back into the game. Tuesday night’s loss marks the fourth time the Rebels have lost an SEC game after leading by double digits.
The Rebels looked like they finally found their footing when they went into Athens and stole a game from Georgia in their best all-around performance of the season. The team came out with that same energy in the Pavilion to build an early lead that slowly wilted away in the absence of the SEC’s leading scorer Breein Tyree.
The senior left the game with five fouls and five minutes to play. Tyree went to the bench with eight points and with him went the Ole Miss offense.
“First half, we played very good. Second half, Breein came out and wouldn’t guard, didn’t have any energy,” head coach Kermit Davis said. “The basketball gods have a great way to work; I mean, you better come out and play and get ready to go. He got a couple touch fouls and he’s out of the game.”
Tuesday night was a showcase of what level this team can operate on with everything clicking, but also why that level might not be sustainable.
The Rebels were firing on all cylinders even as Tyree struggled. Blake Hinson, Devontae Shuler and K.J. Buffen took turns attacking the defense while Khadim Sy turned in another respectable performance with 13 points and seven rebounds.
“It was great to see Devontae. I thought Khadim competed his tail off. We’re just a different defensive team when he’s in the game because of his length. I thought K.J. and Blake fought it. Bryce had way too many turnovers… Our bench is a little thin but we had four guys in double figures and one of them wasn’t Breein Tyree, so that’s a positive in a loss.”
This can be a dangerous team with every player executing their role. Problems arise as the game goes on and fouls pile up. Usually, it’s Sy or Buffen having to sit with foul trouble, leaving the Rebels vulnerable on the interior, but it was Tyree’s touch fouls on the perimeter that left the offense looking stalled, especially at the end of regulation.
“We’ve got to keep running offense, keep playing. We kind of bogged down and we started settling, I thought,” Davis said.
Even if the Rebels put together a good 20 minutes of basketball, Davis’ team doesn’t have the depth to keep up with SEC teams.
“Our team’s playing better, there’s no question about that. We don’t feel like a 1-6 team. We don’t look like one, but we are one,” Davis said. “We’ve got to do the things at the end of games to win. You’ve just got to keep fighting it. You’ve got another opportunity on Saturday; that’s all you can do, just go down and play.”