There are games where one team “has it” and the other simply doesn’t; Ole Miss was in the latter category in their game against Iowa State on Saturday.
The Iowa State Cyclones made 70 percent of their shots, got 28 points from their bench and held the Rebels to 33 percent from the field en route to an 87-73 victory in the first game of the SEC/Big 12 challenge.
The Cyclones scored the first points of the game, finishing out a wire-to-wire victory over an Ole Miss team that has now lost three of their last four contests — all by double digits.
“We got beat by an outstanding team,” head coach Kermit Davis said. “Iowa State is probably the best put-together offensive team in the country.”
From the tip, both teams played with the lethargy expected from an early tipoff. Iowa State woke up first, jumping out to an 11-4 lead while Ole Miss missed its first 8 field goal attempts. The Cyclones controlled the tempo for most of the first half — every Ole Miss run was met with a Cyclone response.
With three minutes left to play in the first half, Iowa State led 37-29. After a Breein Tyree lay-in and a Terence Davis transition 3-pointer cut the lead to 3, The Pavilion returned to its pregame form. The building and the play on the court were electric. Both teams traded transition 3-pointers and dunks, and when the dust had settled, Ole Miss trailed by only 5 points at intermission.
At half, the Cyclone’s backcourt of Marial Shayok and Talen Horton-Tucker had combined for 25 points on 60 percent shooting. Shayok was the Big 12’s leading scorer coming into the game, but Horton-Tucker stole the show. He got any and every shot he wanted, getting into the teeth of the 1-3-1 but flashing a sweet jumper as well.
Coach Davis admitted in postgame that he was skeptical of employing the 1-3-1 against this Iowa State team that can fill it up from all three levels, and the gamble didn’t pay off.
“We feel like we have some of the best guards in the country,” Horton-Tucker said. “In the second half, we came out locked in. As a team, we thought the 1-3-1 was getting us easy, open looks.”
The Rebels opened the second half with the same energy they closed the first half with and cut the Iowa State lead to 1 early in the period. Iowa State responded with a 10-2 run of its own, beginning a nearly 10-minute stretch in which the Cyclones didn’t miss a shot. Over that stretch, they made 12 straight field goals, ballooning the lead to 16 and putting to bed any thoughts of an Ole Miss comeback.
Kermit Davis thought his team defended poorly and didn’t move the ball like they should have. The Rebels had only 10 assists on 25 made field goals and gave up 46 points in the paint.
“We (have to) move the ball a lot better; that’s why we were winning so many games,” junior guard Tyree said. “A bunch of our field goals were coming off of assists. I only had one assist tonight. I (have to) do better than that. We have to be better playmakers.”
Tyree finished with 22 points on 9-22 shooting, with one assist and three turnovers. His backcourt mate Terence Davis notched 16 points, six rebounds and four assists but shot 29 percent on 14 attempts. Normally, a 38-point combined outing from the pair would portend success, but when it takes 36 shots to get that 38, the success is varied.
Saturday’s loss marks the first time that Kermit Davis has faced true adversity during his tenure in Oxford. His team suffered three double-digit losses in eleven days and is guaranteed to fall back out of the AP Top 25.
A midseason malaise isn’t uncharted territory for the Ole Miss basketball program. In fact, it’s been commonplace in recent years. In the past, the Rebels have succumbed to their losses and let their seasons be overtaken by them. Davis believes this time will be different.
“We (have to) have a short memory, have good practices and get our team back together,” Kermit Davis said. “We’ll bounce back.”