On Saturday, the Ole Miss Rebels put together a convincing 81-74 win against SEC opponent Vanderbilt. Led by Deandre Burnett and Terrence Davis with 17 points a piece, the Rebels followed up a poor first half with a stellar second, in which they went 7-9 from behind the arc. Strong performances from Tyree and Saiz also contributed heavily as many Ole Miss fans optimistically look ahead to next month. Here are five takeaways from the win:
- Sebastian Saiz continues to dominate the boards.
Against Vanderbilt, Saiz recorded his SEC-leading 16th double-double. Averaging more than 11 rebounds and 15 points per game, Saiz has proved himself an invaluable asset to the young and somewhat undersized Rebels. Saturday was no exception, as Saiz put up an impressive 16 rebounds and 10 points.
- Limiting turnovers is key.
Head coach Andy Kennedy has preached the gospel of turnovers all season. Game after game, the Rebels consistently turn the ball over more than any team in the SEC. That trend, however, has begun to shift. In each of the past three games, Ole Miss has turned the ball over fewer than 10 times.
- Breein Tyree has finally arrived.
Stefan Moody’s offseason departure left some pretty big shoes for the Rebels to fill this year. Kennedy needed a point guard who could control games and create opportunities. Enter Tyree. The 6-foot-2-inch freshman from New Jersey had a slow start but looks to finally be heating up. After a 20-point showing against No. 5 Baylor, Tyree put up 11 on Vanderbilt and recorded just a single turnover.
- Cullen Neal and Deandre Burnett are starting to click.
Neal, a transfer from New Mexico, and Burnett, a transfer from Miami, also saw slow starts to their 2016-2017 season. The two have started stepping up lately, and the Rebels are reaping the benefits. Neal, whose father coaches at the University of New Mexico, distributes the ball as well as anyone, and Burnett has risen to No. 5 in the SEC in points-per-game with 16.9. The pair of juniors will need to stay hot if the Rebels hope to play in March.
- NCAA Tournament hopes are alive…barely.
Speaking of postseason play, Ole Miss may still have a chance, albeit a slim one, of making the NCAA Tournament. Huge games against Arkansas, South Carolina and Tennessee loom large as the Rebels hope to make a late push. If Kennedy’s men can pull out a couple big wins, there’s no reason Ole Miss fans shouldn’t be looking forward to March Madness.