Breein Tyree and the Ole Miss men’s basketball team are doing everything they can
to ensure that this season is anything but forgettable.
Coming into February, this team was dead in the water. A loss on the first of the month dropped them below 0.500 for the first time in nearly two years. They were 1-7 in conference play and just a game above the ill-fated Vanderbilt Commodores in the SEC standings.
Two days later, Rebels’ head coach Kermit Davis sat down with his senior guard Breein Tyree.
“We had a long, long talk … and I think his heart’s in the right place,” Davis said. “He was
good (after that). He really led — probably had his two best practices in a while.”
Tyree said the conversation was more about mindset than gameplay.
“He just wanted to see where I was mentally,” Tyree said. “I feel like it was a very honest conversation … We spoke about a lot, but just mainly my body language and still having a lot to play for.”
Since that chat, Tyree has exploded with three outstanding performances: a 38-point
showing against South Carolina in which he shot 12-21 from the field and 3-5 from beyond the arc; a 23-point game against Florida, where he was 4-6 from 3-point range and also contributed two steals and a career-high 40-point night on Tuesday in a blowout win against Mississippi State.
With the continued message from Davis and his staff to win the month of February, Ole Miss has two key road games against ranked opponents: No. 11 Auburn and No. 12 Kentucky. Unless they plan on making a miracle run through the SEC tournament and securing an automatic bid, Ole Miss will most likely have to win at least one of those games if they want to be in the dance.
None of the teams that ESPN lead bracketologist Joe Lunardi currently has on the bubble have a road win over a ranked opponent. LSU, who currently sits at 25 in the national AP, was defeated by East Tennessee State back in December when they were unranked.
The Rebels’ road record — currently 1-6 — is alarming for a team going to Lexington on Saturday to take on a top 15 opponent in Kentucky.
Junior forward Nick Richards has been a force inside for Kentucky all season, and the
Rebels must find a way to slow down the skilled big man if they want any shot at an upset.
Tyree will probably draw the Wildcats’ best perimeter defender in Ashton Hagans and
will look to exploit Richards and forward EJ Montgomery in the pick-and-roll game to draw
His backcourt partner Devontae Shuler will need to produce his own offense when Tyree is denied the ball.
With only a small window of opportunity left to boost their tournament resume, Ole Miss must rise to the challenge if they want to dance in March.