Unable to get into a rhythm offensively all night, the Ole Miss men’s basketball team came up short against No. 24 Butler at home on Tuesday, losing 67-58.
Neither Khadim Sy nor star senior Breein Tyree started for the Rebels after they were blown out by 41 against Oklahoma State in the final of the NIT Tip-Off last week.
“Breein was a minute late to practice yesterday, and (Khadim Sy) didn’t practice particularly well yesterday, so that’s why we did that,” said head coach Kermit Davis.
It was the first time Tyree came off the bench in a game since his sophomore season under then-head coach Andy Kennedy.
Ole Miss was lethargic and sloppy to open the game, committing three turnovers in the first 90 seconds. They quickly went down 9-2 before working themselves back into the game by attacking the basket and finishing at the rim.
“We’re just not making shots,” Davis said of the slow starts in recent games. “We’ve got two guys who were named preseason first and second team All-SEC and we’re just struggling.”
Sy and Tyree checked in for the first time with 13:08 remaining in the half and the Rebels trailing 11-6.
Sy made an immediate impact by catching a high-arcing lob from Austin Crowley and powering it home for the alley-oop.
Tyree struggled to get into a flow offensively, missing his first two attempts from the field before converting on a transition layup with 7:33 left in the half for his first points of the night.
His only other points in the first half came on a catch-and-shoot three from the left wing with less than a minute remaining that cut the lead to seven points.
The last minute of the half was chaotic and the home crowd began to grow frustrated with the officiating.
The Pavillion became tense when Devontae Shuler was whistled for a touchy foul more than 30 feet from the basket that put the Bulldogs in the penalty.
After the Butler player missed the front end of the one-and-one, Sy was whistled for a lane violation, causing Davis to spring into action to defend his big man. Sy argued that the Butler player he was boxing out entered the lane first and the referees circled up in the lane to discuss it but ended up hitting Sy with the violation anyway.
Davis was livid over the call and berated the officials as they lined up for another free throw. He was then called for a technical foul, causing an uproar in the student section.
Butler made both technical free throws before going back to the line to re-shoot the original foul shot. They clunked the front end once again, but the two points from the technical extended the Bulldogs’ lead to nine before the half.
Butler quickly opened their lead up to 16 in the second half behind impressive shooting from senior standout Kamar Baldwin.
Baldwin was unstoppable on the night, scoring 31 points on 11-16 FG including 4-5 from 3-point range. He drew the Rebels’ best defender whenever he was on the court, being guarded most often by Shuler and Crowley. Shuler was effective on defense and contested nearly every shot but Baldwin scored bucket after bucket despite the strong defense.
“We made a great comeback… got it to four and then just didn’t guard a possession, missed a dunk, missed some free throws down the stretch and Butler’s just too good in those situations so give Butler a lot of credit,” said Davis.
The Bulldogs cruised the rest of the way to a 67-58 victory behind Baldwin’s impressive offensive output.
“On this particular night the best player just took over the game in Baldwin,” Davis said after the loss. “He had 31, made some good, really tough shots. We gave him some good ones but he worked for a lot of his baskets, give him credit.”
Tyree finished with 22 points and eight rebounds on 50% shooting from the field and from deep. Sy recorded 12 points and four boards on 6-9 shooting off the bench.
Shuler continued to struggle offensively, scoring just seven points while shooting 2-10 from the field.
“Devontae, I thought, competed but he can’t get it to go in the goal right now,” Davis said. “He took a lot of good shots and we’ve got to keep encouraging him to take the really good shots.”
Blake Hinson also had trouble getting going and ended up with seven points on 2-6 shooting.
Ole Miss now has a soft stretch in their schedule where they can pick up some wins before going on the road to face Wichita State in their final non-conference game on Jan. 4.