The Ole Miss men’s basketball team finished its three-game home stand with what turned out to be the biggest game of the season against the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the Pavilion on Tuesday.
The new and improved team put together 24 minutes of inspired basketball in front of a raucous crowd to steal a roller coaster of an 83-58 victory over its rival.
Senior guard Breein Tyree put up 27 points during the second half to finish with a career-high of 40 points. Tyree outscored the Bulldogs by three points in the second half and said he knew he was chasing 40.
“Coming down to the end of my career at Ole Miss, I want to be remembered as one of the best guards to ever come here,” Tyree said. “I want to give fans, my parents (and) everybody something to cheer for… I’ve been scoring at a high rate lately, and just in that second half (by) scoring 27, I’d probably say that’s one of my best games.”
With convincing wins over South Carolina and Florida this past week, the Rebels brought a new late-season buzz to the program, and it showed in the attendance Tuesday with a packed, vibrant Pavilion ahead of the match-up.
However, the team on the court failed to match that enthusiasm with its performance early in the first half.
Other than a brief 2-2 run early in the game, the Rebels looked lost in the first half, giving up easy buckets around the rim, turning the ball over and committing unnecessary fouls.
Up front, MSU’s Reggie Perry and Abdul Ado outmatched Khadim “Dream” Sy and KJ Buffen. Buffen picked up three fouls with seven minutes left in the first half, and Sy reverted back to early-season Dream. Perry was fed regularly as he racked up nine points and five rebounds in the first half.
When the clock hit the 17-minute mark, the roles suddenly switched in the Rebels’ favor.
A 12-1 run on Sy’s back in the last three minutes of the first half got the Rebels back into the game. Devontae Shuler and Tyree found Sy for hard buckets down low, and the team was starting to come back into shape. Shuler took the momentum into the half by making a corner three to bring the Rebels within one point of the Bulldogs.
“The way we ended the half, I thought, was really critical,” head coach Kermit Davis said after the game. “A critical part in that first half was really Khadim. He kind of kept us at arms reach (and) kept that thing at eight and 10.”
The Rebels built the energy back into the crowd slowly in the second half until the building erupted with about nine minutes left. Sy continued to get buckets under the goal, and even when he recorded his fourth foul, Tyree and Shuler kept it going by scoring at will over and over again.
The team got stop after stop and put the stranglehold on the Bulldogs. Tyree got past anyone lined up against him, and Shuler did the same when he was called upon. Sy refused to get bullied down low. Hinson did not hurt the team off the ball, and Buffen played well. Antavion Collum was not shooting, but with a plus-minus of 28 in 28 minutes, that was fine because he was playing stand-up defense when Sy was off the court.
The Rebels improve to 13-11 overall and 4-7 league record, with a new lease on life after winning three straight against some of the top teams in the SEC.
The team has gone from lost to electric in a matter of three games, and this game was the embodiment of that.
“In the SEC, you’re never out of it if you’ve got 10 or 12 games to go,” Davis said. “There’s just so many great opportunities for quadrant-one or quadrant-two wins. We’ve got a long way to go, and it’s tough, but (we will have) a great opportunity on Saturday at Kentucky.”