The Ole Miss Rebels put another ding on their NCAA tournament resume Saturday, falling to the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders in Murfreesboro, Tenn., 77-58. Despite early struggles from the floor, the Rebels entered the second half with a one-point lead and a semblance of momentum.
The second half, however, got out of hand quickly for Andy Kennedy’s team. Middle Tennessee’s offense, led by forwards Nick King and Brandon Walters, came out on fire and jumped to a quick lead. The teams went blow-for-blow for much of the period, with Ole Miss pulling within four points late before an impressive 12-0 MTSU run closed out the contest.
While the Blue Raiders were hot coming out of the break, the Rebels were everything but. In the second half, Ole Miss committed 10 turnovers, went 0-for-4 from beyond the arc, and struggled to maintain any momentum. On the scoresheet, the Rebels were led by Marcanvis Hymon’s 12 points, who was followed by Bruce Stevens and Terence Davis, who both only had ten. In general, Ole Miss’ backcourt struggled mightily on the night; five Rebel guards combined for 119 minutes on the floor that only yielded 32 points.
Let’s pause here. Hymon led all Rebel scorers, and the guards failed to shore up the in-game problems. That’s in no way a strategy for success, insofar as Hymon averaged fewer than five points per game coming into this season. In football terms, he’s not the feature back.
For MTSU, the aforementioned King and Walters were phenomenal, combining for 45 points. Giddy Potts also finished in double-digits with 14 points and four assists.
Next up, the Rebels will play Sam Houston State on Wednesday night in Oxford. Beyond that, Ole Miss closes its non-conference slate with Illinois State, Texas A&M-CC, and Bradley before opening conference play against South Carolina. So if you’re worried that Ole Miss doesn’t have many real RPI-boosting opportunities left outside of SEC play, you’re right. So it goes.