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Ole Miss’ NCAA Tournament are in trouble after losing to Texas A&M

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The momentum of a two-game win streak crumpled on Wednesday during an 80-74 home loss.

NCAA Basketball: Texas A&M at Mississippi Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

After a first-half defensive performance that made Dave Wommack’s Egg Bowl showing look respectable, Ole Miss hoops couldn’t quite rally back in what may end up being a season-wrecking loss to Texas A&M. The Aggies, which hung 47 points in the first 20 minutes and held off a Rebels rally that tied the game with under two minutes, eventually won, 80-74, Wednesday night in the Pavilion.

In terms of postseason picture, this was a devastating loss, not because Texas A&M is a peak #SECFeverBasketball team (63rd KenPom; 98th RPI), but because it ends, or at least drains most of the life out of, any momentum Ole Miss had accrued during a two-game win streak. At 3-4 in the SEC and 47th in the RPI, hope of an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament is fading fast. In order to get back into the discussion that will take place at a rectangular table in a nice hotel conference room, Ole Miss will likely need to beat RPI No. 1 Baylor on Saturday and go on a multi-game winning streak in SEC play.

While the race is not always to the swift or the battle to the strong, that’s usually the way to bet it.

Offensively, Ole Miss played well at times against A&M, but not enough to offset a -16 rebound deficit, which included 16 Texas A&M offensive rebounds and a 400 percent increase in Rebel fans screaming “REBOUND” in a flawless squawk. Sebastian Saiz did his usual thing with 19 points and seven rebounds, and the surging Terence Davis dropped in 19 points as well, ending his streak of double-doubles at two (I had 12 in the office pool; ALAS).

The Aggies interior duo of Tyler Davis and Robert Williams crushed the Rebels in the paint, combining for 35 points and 19 rebounds, while guard Admon Gilder added 22 points from the outside (and seven rebounds).

Ole Miss, which trailed by 10 with 12 minutes to play, managed to keep in contact with A&M, eventually tying the game at 73 with just under two minutes to go. However, the Rebels’ last five possessions of the game resembled a Hugh Freeze offense inside the 10-yard line, going turnover, made free throw, missed three-point attempt, turnover, and meaningless layup with eight seconds left. That, as basketball books and YouTube tutorials will tell you, is not an advisable way to play the last two minutes of a game.

Here are our three big takeaways from Texas A&M’s two-hour tutorial on working the offensive glass.

Whatever this team had cooking earlier in the year is gone.

After watching the Rebels trade blows with an outstanding Creighton team in the fifth game of the season, most of us felt like Ole Miss looked the part of an NCAA Tournament bunch. There were scorers (Saiz and Deandre Burnett) and quality role players (Cullen Neal, Rasheed Brooks, and Justas Furmanavicius) doing their jobs well.

For whatever reason, they just haven’t been able to capture that moment again. The most glaring reasons are the defensive issues (and this was never going to be a good defensive team), an inability to limit turnovers, and injuries. Perhaps it’s a combination of those and more, but things are trending in the wrong direction.

As predicted, Terence Davis: Offensive Juggernaut.

Obviously, we all saw this coming and I have no idea why I’m commenting on it no- OH WAIT THE TELEPROMPTER IS WRONG SERIOUSLY WHAT IS GOING ON. Of Ole Miss’ 20 games, Davis has hit double-digits 13 times, including five of the last six games (not to mention 37 rebounds in those six).

If he develops a more consistent shot outside of the lane, he could become a serious scorer in AK’s guard-friendly offense. And if that could happen sooner than later, that would be super.

My kingdom for consistent play from a third guard.

Clearly, Deandre Burnett and Terence Davis are Ole Miss’ best two guards, but they can’t carry the backcourt for 40 minutes. With Rasheed Brooks out, it’s on Cullen Neal, Breein Tyree, and Donte Fitzpatrick-Dorsey to provide quality minutes when Burnett and Davis are getting like two minutes of rest.

It doesn’t matter which one of the three does it, Ole Miss just needs at least one of them to do it every night. Given the current minutes situation, it likely falls more on Tyree and Neal, but applications are always welcome.