Ole Miss entered this game as the favorite, something that had not been the case in any other conference game, and the Rebels made a statement on the road against the Gamecocks.
This whole season, everyone has admitted that Ole Miss is more talented than its record, but all the pieces had yet to come together. The Rebels showed South Carolina and the rest of the SEC what it could look like when they are firing on all cylinders.
The Rebels rode into Columbus with a confidence that fans have seldom seen this season. Their shots were falling, the defense was top-tier and the game flowed smoother than any other this season.
This game, however, was not without the typical scoring droughts of any SEC game, but it was very impressive how the Rebels weathered the storm and rallied to keep a lead for the entire game.
The starting lineup looked a little different as sophomore guard James White replaced senior Myles Burns, which slightly bolstered the Rebel offense. But Burns reentered the lineup to start the second half, and he made his presence felt on defense, as usual.
Ole Miss went into halftime with a 30-20 lead, which is its largest halftime lead in conference play, and they looked in control for the majority of the first 20 minutes.
Every starter for the Rebels scored, with senior forward Jayveous McKinnis leading all scorers with eight points.
This was one of the more balanced first half attacks of the season by Ole Miss. On both offense and defense, all five Rebels were aggressive; they not only matched the intensity of South Carolina, but Ole Miss comfortably surpassed it, which largely contributed to its 10-point lead.
The second half started a little shaky for the Rebels, as a few turnovers and missed shots allowed South Carolina to creep back within four points, but it was the shotmaking from star guard Matthew Murrell that propelled the Ole Miss lead back to double digits.
Everything culminated perfectly, and Ole Miss pulled out a much-needed moral boost of a win, but where do the Rebels go from here?
As many will recall, last year’s Texas A&M team had a rough beginning to conference play, losing nine in a row at one point, but the Aggies turned it around to win 11 of their last 13 games.
In the latter part of the season, Texas A&M made the SEC tournament championship game, just missed out on March Madness and made it all the way to the NIT championship game.
All of that just means that a team should never be counted out. Also, that it is okay to have less than national championship expectations.
From here on out, it is vital that the Rebels focus on the games in front of them because a Texas A&M-like run is never outside the realm of possibility.
Ole Miss has a chance to steal another conference game on Saturday Jan. 21 in Arkansas at 11:00 a.m. CT against an up-and-down Razorback team that is very beatable if Ole Miss can replicate its effort against South Carolina.