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Ole Miss drowns out LSU in Oxford, 96-76

The Rebels ended the game on an 18-0 run.

NCAA Basketball: Louisiana State at Mississippi Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Ole Miss dumped in a finalizing 18 unanswered points to ultimately crush LSU in The Pavilion on Tuesday, 96-76. Terence Davis blasted through 33 to lead all the night’s scorers, and Sebastian Saiz contributed 15 besides. The Rebs are now 16-10 and 7-6 in conference play, and NCAA Tournament bubble talk is perhaps murmuring around these Basketbears.

The sprint to the first under-16 timeout featured sharp-shooting from both teams and a profound dearth of defense. Terence Davis went hard into the lane a couple of times, and none other than Sebastian Saiz paired with Deandre Burnett to down back-to-back threes. Six minutes into the affair, things were tied up at 15 apiece and the track meet was on.

LSU enjoyed an 8-0 run into the middle of the opening period as Ole Miss’ defense at times melted into liquid butter. Even so, the Rebs continued to shoot well, with Burnett feeling confident from out in the yard and Rasheed Brooks finding his stroke for a pertinent three himself. This stretch saw a tug-of-war shootout in which neither team could miss from range, while neither team could defend for shit. With 8:30 remaining in the first half, they were essentially deadlocked, 26-25, advantage Tigers.

Things finally began clicking on Ole Miss’ defense with six minutes remaining before recess, as LSU started taking worse and worse looks and Breein Tyree extending the lead out to 33-28 after a masterful trey. Though the Tigers were still accurate from the floor, the Rebs’ defense tightened up to force some timely turnovers that prevented the enemy from making any real headway. Still, streaky defensive showings from Ole Miss allowed LSU to hang around, and things were deadlocked 37 all with three minutes to go in the first half.

Things fell apart soon after that, however, as Ole Miss couldn’t find the basket and LSU legged out another 8-0 run. Burnett broke the ice on a runner in the lane, and he assisted Marcanvis Hymon on his first bucket of the night to bring things up to 45-42, LSU. Burnett draw another two-shot foul to close out the half, and the Tigers held a three-point advantage, 47-44, heading into the locker room.

Both teams shot better than 50 percent from the field in the first half.

The second half started not ideally for Ole Miss, with three misses and an equal number of answering LSU buckets. Andy Kennedy couldn’t stand the team’s performance to such a point that he called timeout 45 seconds before the under-16 was scheduled to go. That didn’t stem the immediate tide, as LSU ran out for a 8-5 run thanks in large part to Ole Miss failing to make their damn shots.

Terence Davis picked up his third foul at the 12-minute mark, an even worse outrage after getting called for a wholly bogus goaltending call on a Brooks layup. LSU was firmly in their element by this time, draining shots they needed and blasting Ole Miss on defense into complete disarray. Midway through the window the Tigers held a 61-54 advantage, which felt far worse than just seven points. Antonio Blakeney was singlehandedly killing Oxford at that point.

Anyway, a 14-5 run into the second half of the window brought the Rebs back to within one, as Ole Miss trailed LSU 69-68 with just 7:20 remaining. Thanks further to some Davis heroics, the Basketbears ran out to a 79-75 lead with just 4:30 remaining. Another hoop from Tyree stretched that out to 81-76 with less than four minutes to play, and the nail-biter was fully engaged.

Given a Brooks three pointer from distance he had no business engaging from, the Rebs stretched the lead further to 86-76 with three minutes left, and the defense girded up to force a key turnover on LSU’s next possession. Davis again found his way to the hoop for his 34 point of the night, and suddenly the Tigers found themselves stymied on offense.

Here are three takeaways from Tuesday’s weird W in Oxford.

Are NCAA refs finally loosening up? (No.)

It’s hard to diagnose what produced so few fouls in the first half on Tuesday, but the game was remarkably dim on referee interjections to begin with. Ole Miss didn’t reach the bonus in the first half until the second-to-last play of the frame, for instance. Whether this is due to both teams playing relatively clean ball, or whether we’re deep enough now into the season that contact fouls are loosening up in the refs’ minds remains to be known. Either way, the pacing of this game was pretty much ideal for a mid-season SEC match, especially one that’s been historically violent the last two seasons.

UNTIL THE SECOND HALF, wherein the entire staccato pacing of previous weeks returned. How can NCAA referees command any sense of accountability if games will be called so unevenly from week to week? Last season’s foul-calling seemed to even out much earlier in the year, so that tournament season didn’t witness too many egregious umpiring situations. We’ll see.

What the hell happened to the defense?

Ole Miss’ defense — both zones and man coverages — couldn’t stop anything in the first half Tuesday, with significant holes opening especially in the perimeter landscape. LSU doesn’t normally attack from out in the county, but the Tigers managed five first-half three pointers on the way to 47 first-half points.

The second half wasn’t much better, with LSU ripping off baskets on most every opening possession in the closing frame. The Rebs tightened up down the stretch, but extended stretches of meh performance mean nothing moving forward into conference tournament season. And they were playing so well.

Deandre Burnett finally woke up for once.

Burnett lit up the sticks early and often, pouring in 12 points in the first half astride two head-nodding three pointers. He slowed down considerably in the second after picking up a handful of fouls and ended the game with 15 points, just shy of his 16.5 points per game in conference play. Either way, it was encouraging to see Burnett loosen up out on the floor, and given more reps from distance, he could return to that dangerous shooter we saw early in the season.

Ole Miss is next in action Saturday at 5 p.m. CT against Arkansas in Fayetteville. Pig up.