The Big 12-SEC challenge has come and gone yet again, and it was the Big 12 that proved to be the top conference in college basketball. The Big 12 made quick work of many SEC teams, including second-ranked Alabama, who fell to Oklahoma.
Among those who lost was Ole Miss, who could not get anything going against the Oklahoma State Cowboys and lost 60-82.
The Rebels came into this game having lost eight of their last nine, while the Cowboys had won two of their last three, including a huge win against No. 12 Iowa State. To make matters worse, Ole Miss had to play this game without its leading scorer Matthew Murrell and its top assist-getter, Daeshun Ruffin.
Oklahoma State came into this game with a mission: to make everything difficult for Ole Miss. The Pokes executed this plan perfectly against the short-handed Rebels on their way to an impressive cross-conference win.
The box score does not do Oklahoma State’s defense justice, as the counting stats show only three steals and five blocks, but ask any Ole Miss player, or any players in the Big 12 for that matter, and they will say the Cowboys’ defense is nothing to joke about.
Oklahoma State has looked very comfortable in games where they have held their opponents to 60 or fewer points, and Ole Miss was no exception.
Ole Miss suffered multiple scoring droughts throughout this game, but a stretch in the first half really set the tone and broke the game open.
In about a six-minute period midway through the first, the Rebels missed 11/12 shots from the field. Oklahoma State extended its lead to double digits during this time and provided itself with a nice cushion to fend off any attempt at a comeback.
Despite all this, Oklahoma State’s defense does not deserve all the credit for Ole Miss’ offensive struggles.
Murrell and Ruffin being out was a huge blow to the Rebel offense; Ole Miss could not find a consistent, go-to scoring option. The Rebels looked dysfunctional and sporadic without their first and second options.
When this team is fully healthy, there is more player movement on and off the ball, sets run smoother and there is a flow to the offense. But these untimely injuries have been the catalyst for Ole Miss’ struggles as of late.
Murrell’s timetable says he is day-to-day with a mild knee sprain, and they do not know when Ruffin will be back in the lineup, so these next two or three games are going to say a lot about this team’s resolve and ability to fight through adversity.
Ole Miss takes on Kentucky on Tuesday, Jan. 31 at 8:00 p.m. CST in the SJB Pavilion. The game will also air on ESPN, so either tune in or show up to support the Rebels as they re-enter conference play.