Ole Miss took its talents to Athens, Ga., Feb. 7 to face off against the Bulldogs for the second time this season. The first matchup resulted in Georgia coming out on top 62-58, and this game was a very similar back-and-forth, but with the Rebels winning this time, 78-74.
The Rebels went into halftime up one point, similar to how Georgia did in Oxford a month ago. Forwards Jaemyn Brakefield and Myles Burns shouldered the offensive load all night, but it mattered the most in the first half.
This team has faced a huge issue this season: slow starts. Ole Miss seems to take time to ease into games. Against Georgia, however, the Rebels came out ready to go shot for shot on offense and stop for stop on defense.
Some of the season-long struggles seemed to disappear against Georgia, particularly the free throw problem, both getting to the line and making the shots. Ole Miss was 13th in the SEC in free throw attempts, while Georgia ranked first in the conference.
Georgia and Ole Miss ended up shooting the same number of free throws, but the Rebels ended the game shooting the better percentage (81%).
Ole Miss played a majority of this game without its star freshman point guard Amaree Abram, so someone had to pick up the slack. Perhaps the most unlikely candidate did so, as Burns racked up 20 points while collecting six rebounds and securing two steals.
The former NAIA National Championship Tournament MVP had not scored more than 13 points in a game this season, so 20 was surely a blessing and a gift to his team. Before coming to Ole Miss, Burns was a consistent 15-point-per-game scorer, but he has embraced his defensive anchor role for head coach Kermit Davis without hesitation.
Brakefield led the Rebels in scoring with 24 points on sensational efficiency. He finished the game shooting 73% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc. This was also a season-high for Brakefield. His previous high was 18 points.
This is the first time this season that two Rebels have scored 20 or more points in the same game.
These scoring outbursts from Burns and Brakefield propelled the Rebels to this win, but it was the hand of junior guard Matthew Murrell that iced the game. Murrell shot seven free throws at the end of the game and made six of them to seal the deal for Ole Miss.
Ole Miss is set to come back home off their second conference win to take on South Carolina, which just so happens to be the Rebels’ other conference win. In their prior meeting, Ole Miss beat the Gamecocks 70-58, which means that Ole Miss has its first and only remaining opportunity to sweep a season series.
The Rebels take on South Carolina on Saturday, Feb. 11, at 12 p.m. CST. Fans can watch the game on the SEC Network or in person inside the SJB Pavilion.