Losing seven of their last eight games, the Ole Miss men’s basketball team came away with their second conference win on Wednesday at home against South Carolina.
“It was a good feeling just to win an SEC home game, we needed that desperately,” head coach Kermit Davis said after the win. “I think our team has some good basketball ahead of it.”
The Rebs came out of the gates scorching hot from the field, shooting nearly 52% from the field and 50% from three-point range in the first half. Their defense was also superb, holding the Gamecocks to under 35% on field goals in the opening period. They showed hustle and determination by closing out on perimeter shots, crashing the defensive boards and flying all over the court for loose balls.
They started the game with an 8-0 run as South Carolina missed their first five field goals before conceding back-to-back buckets from the Gamecocks’ Maik Kotsar. South Carolina cut it to 11-10 with just over 13 minutes remaining in the half before Ole Miss extended the lead to double digits with a 9-0 run over the next minute.
Senior guard Breein Tyree scored eight straight points for the Rebels over two and a half minutes to keep the Gamecocks at arms’ length; they went into the half up 43-32.
Tyree could get whatever shot he wanted, slicing up the South Carolina defense with well-timed backdoor cuts to the rim. He was aided by great passes all night from the likes of forwards Blake Hinson, KJ Buffen and Antavion Collum.
He recorded 18 points in the first half on 6-10 shooting from the field and 6-8 shooting from the line. He was a frequent visitor to the charity stripe throughout the game, ending with 11 makes on 13 attempts.
“Breein Tyree was just, obviously, exceptional tonight… early in that game he drove that ball, and he drove in straight lines, and when he gets to the line 13 times he’s gonna have a big game,” Davis said.
The Rebels responded with ten straight points of their own to open the lead up to 17, giving themselves a cushion that they would not relinquish the rest of the night. The Gamecocks cut the lead back to single digits with just over 11 minutes left in the game, and again cut it to ten with just under five minutes but were unable to get over the hump both times.
“I thought our team, start to finish, it was one of our very best games of the year,” said Davis. “We were physical… our guys executed some back cuts… we guarded and went to our zone and it was better.”
Tyree led the way for Ole Miss with 38 points on 12-21 shooting, including 3-5 from deep. He set a new career high and posted his third 30-point game of the season, all coming in the past three weeks.
Hinson finished with 13 points on 3-6 shooting, including 2-3 from three-point land. He also got to the line six times, converting on five of those attempts. He registered seven boards, two assists, a block and a steal to round out his night. Junior forward Khadim Sy nearly posted a double-double with 10 points and eight boards on the night. After the game, Davis said he had a long talk with Tyree on Monday about his star guard’s body language and leadership during a disappointing season.
“We had a long, long talk… His heart’s in a great place, you know… I told him it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Ole Miss plays in the postseason,” Davis said. “If LSU and Auburn are the two best teams in our league with, probably, Kentucky, we’ve shown that we can play right there so who knows what happens in a conference tournament.”
Wednesday marked a milestone win for Davis who recorded the 500th win of his career.
“I couldn’t have done it at a better place. I’ve coached a lot of places but to do it at home, in Mississippi… to be able to coach at Ole Miss and do that… it was quite a grind to get to 500 as you guys well know so hopefully it doesn’t take as long to get to 501,” Davis said after the game.
Ole Miss will have a chance for Davis to get win No. 501 as they host Florida at 1 p.m. on Saturday in the Pavilion.