It hardly ever feels good to lose a game, but Monday's back and forth match against Creighton may qualify for as close as it gets. A timely barrage of second-half three pointers caused the inevitable table-turning, gut-wrenching 86-77 loss for the Rebels, their first of the year.
Still, a second-place finish in a November tournament certainly turns around last year’s disappointment in the Charleston Classic.
So here the Rebels were - a team that had low expectations from fans and media - facing a top 20 team in late November, and somehow ahead at the half, dominating the glass and looking like a team who could play with anyone. And perhaps they can.
The Blue Jays closed the game with a 12-3 run and relied on stellar long range shooting ability to carry their team to victory. Creighton shot 61.5 percent from three point range, including a 4-of-6 effort from Toby Hegner, who DEFINITELY used to be that guy in church league basketball who jacked threes from the corner all game.
Ole Miss found an unlikely source of points in the ever streaky Rasheed Brooks, who chipped in a career high 22 points alongside leading scorer Deandre Burnett’s double deuce in points scored. Brooks had previously averaged 11 points per game but exploded this Monday night, hitting four of nine from three point range.
Lost in the shuffle after a great performance Sunday was Sebastian Saiz, who scored only four points but managed to lead everyone in rebounds with 14. Saiz has been up and down this season in regards to scoring, and Coach Andy Kennedy has addressed it as such that the big man cannot have down games for the Rebels when it comes to sustaining long term success.
What AK is getting at is that Ole Miss’ outside scoring threats, while dangerous and explosive, need support from the team’s best big man in the last several years. Rebounds usually account for points in one way or another, but Saiz has to assert himself in the post to take some pressure off the perimeter in future games.
Twitter lit up after the game with assistant coach and former Rebel basketball star Todd Abernethy saying, "I'm proud of the way we fought and believe this team has what it takes to be special." Graduate Assistant Kory Keys was also encouraged at the Rebs’ tournament performance.
We never accept losing, but I'll never apologize for taking a Top-10 team to the wire. Proud of our guys.— Kory Keys (@KoryKeys) November 22, 2016
The Rebels most likely gained a few more believers Monday with expectations exceeding performance, even though a win fell out of their hands.
Ole Miss' next game is on Thanksgiving at 3 p.m. CT against the University of Montana Griz. Grizzlies. Grizz? Whatever, it should be a win and the admission is free, so get fat and then go sit and watch the Rebels do work. This team could really be something special.