The Ole Miss men’s basketball team secured their ever so elusive 20th victory of the season by going on the road and knocking off Missouri by a score of 73-68.
With the win, the Rebels have almost certainly secured a bid into the NCAA tournament. After being picked to finish last in the SEC in the preseason media poll, Ole Miss capped off the regular season with a 20-11 (10-8) record, and tied for sixth place in the conference standings.
Ole Miss had control in the early going on the back of Breein Tyree, who had seven of the Rebels’ first 17 points, contributing to a 17-10 advantage at the midway point of the first half. Missouri immediately countered with a 14-2 run that featured six straight points for the Tigers’ big man, Jeremiah Tilmon.
Jordan Geist, who leads the Tigers in scoring at 14 points per game, went to the bench with just under five minutes remaining in the half after picking up his third foul. With Geist absent, the Tigers leaned on the freshman duo of Xavier Pinson and Torrence Watson to close out the opening twenty minutes.
Pinson and Watson scored the final 10 points of the half for the Tigers and went to the locker room leading 34-26. Tyree led the Rebels with 9 points at the break. Watson paced the Tigers with 9 first-half points while Pinson chipped in 7.
It took up until the five-minute mark in the second half for Ole Miss to recapture the lead on a Tyree three-pointer, but the Tigers wouldn’t let up. Devontae Shuler sparked the turnaround for the Rebels with a breakaway dunk to pull ahead at 62-59.
“I think Devontae Shuler was really the spark of the game. He came in, lip busted, playing the hardest that he could and he really gave our team a spark,” Tyree said.
Missouri battled back to reclaim the lead, but it was Terence Davis, who was oddly quiet all day, that turned the game on its side. With Missouri leading by three, Davis knifed through the lane and threw down a monster dunk over Tilmon, who provided the and-one for Davis to knot things up at 66-66 on a play that is sure to make highlight reels across the nation.
It was all Ole Miss from that point forward as the Rebels closed the game out on an 11-2 run with all 11 of their points coming from the Rebels’ big three in Davis, Tyree and Shuler.
“We have been losing tough ones, so just to even get a win felt good for the team. Especially the importance of it — it’s our 20th win and our 10th win in the SEC,” Tyree said after the victory.
Tyree finished with a game-high 21 points while Shuler chipped in 18 points, 13 of which came in the second half. Pinson led Missouri with a career high 20 points and 6 assists, followed by Watson who dropped 14 points and Geist ending with 12.
While the prospects of an NCAA tournament berth look favorable, Kermit Davis knows that nothing is promised, especially in March.
“I don’t think you ever know 100 percent. I have been at Middle Tennessee too long to sit there on a bubble and not get in,” Davis said. “Nothing is ever guaranteed, I do feel good about where we are. I don’t think you ever really know until you sit there and see your name on that Sunday.”
Ole Miss will be the 7th seed in the SEC Tournament in Nashville. They’ll face 10th seed Alabama in the second round of the tournament on Thursday, March 14. The winner of that game will take on 2nd seed Kentucky in the quarterfinals on Friday night.