The Ole Miss Rebels looked to bounce back after a tough loss to Auburn as they faced off against the South Carolina Gamecocks who are ranked 15th in the nation. There was hope heading into this game that the Rebels could upset the Gamecocks and return to their winning ways, but those hopes were crushed as the clock struck zero and SC came out on top 68-65.
Here is how it happened:
The first half:
The story of the first half was defensive miscues from the Rebels. Despite a solid start offensively, Ole Miss could not stop the barrage of buckets from South Carolina. The Gamecocks were dominant in the paint and also could not miss from the perimeter early, going 7-14 from beyond the arc.
Alongside their woeful defense, the Rebels also got outrebounded 9-12 in the first half, fouled the Gamecocks six times and failed to involve defensive stalwart Jamarion Sharp in any impactful way. It was a half the Rebels had to quickly forget, as they got set to change the tide of the game, down 43-31.
The second half:
The Rebels came out of the half looking like a completely different team. Sharp started off hot, scoring six points in the first seven minutes. The Rebels as a whole also started off shooting 11-18 from the field and capitalized on a South Carolina team that seemed suddenly sluggish.
As Ole Miss chipped away at the lead the Gamecocks had built, the game became a fierce battle. Both teams fought tooth and nail for every bucket and the game came down to the final minute of regulation.
With Ole Miss down by three, guard Matthew Murrel took the final shot, attempting to draw a foul to tie the game. Sadly, the whistle never sounded, and the Gamecocks won the game, 68-65. There were a number of factors that contributed to the Rebels coming up just short.
As stated, Ole Miss played lackluster defense the entire game. It was rare for them to get a stop, and when they did they struggled to clean up the glass for even the easiest boards. If the Rebels want to compete with the nation’s best teams, they have to give a better effort on defense.
The Rebels fail to play to their strengths:
Having two incredible big men in Moussa Cisse and Sharp would seem to be a huge advantage against a relatively undersized South Carolina team, yet both of these players were severely underutilized as the Rebels failed to impose themselves physically in the post and on the glass. After such a poor night down low, Rebel fans can only hope that Ole Miss manages to play a more dominant form of basketball in the future.
Even on a night with so many errors, the Rebels showed a grit and determination to win that has been missing from the program for a long time. While they ultimately fell short, there is lots to build and improve on as they move to their next matchup.
The Rebels will look to bounce back and try to get on track as they travel to Kentucky to face the 17th ranked Wildcats. This game will be on ESPN at 8:00 p.m. on Feb. 13.