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Ole Miss knocks Syracuse out of the NIT

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The Basketbears pulled off the upset in front of a tough Carrier Dome crowd, 85-80, and will now host in the third round.

Joshua McCoy-Ole Miss Athletics

In a game that many fans had reasonable doubts about going in, Ole Miss proved their mettle in the second half by taking down a talented Syracuse team. There are few good reasons to be thrilled about progression in the NIT, but this win qualified as one of them. The Rebels’ reward for consecutive road wins will be to host the winner of Georgia Tech vs. Belmont in the third round at The Pavilion.

It took some time for the Rebels to get acclimated to the Orange’s zone defense, committing a ton of turnovers and settling for awkward, semi-contested jumpers far too often in the first half. Following a season-long trend, they took control of the pace and scored 49 after halftime.

The majority of the Rebels’ 85 points came from three-pointers. Terence Davis went off for 30 points on 14 shots, despite only getting to the line twice. Deandre Burnett and Cullen Neal complemented Davis with 34 combined points, and the trio’s torching performance was enough to erase off games from Sebastian Saiz and Breein Tyree.

The list of teams that lost at the Carrier Dome this season includes Duke, Louisville, Florida State, and Virginia. This was an impressive win.

The Rebs needed a big day from deep, and they delivered.

There was some concern going into the game that Ole Miss wouldn’t be able to get their usual opportunities from the foul line, which would mean points would have to come from other places. That’s exactly what happened, as the team overcame a measly 12 made free throws with their best shooting game of the season.

The Rebel guards combined for 15 three-pointers, a season high for the team (previous was 12). Given that Ole Miss had shot just 35 percent from beyond the arc on the year, a 47 percent outing may be seen by many as simply an outlier. But, considering they’ve shot 42 percent from three over the past five games, a game like this may just be an indication of what this team is capable of after being given time to gel.

Andy Kennedy silences the haters yet again.

I’m going to go ahead and say without having done any prior research that Syracuse’s roster is filled with guys who were more heavily recruited out of high school than Kennedy’s squad. The fact that Ole Miss fans are excited about a 2017 class that ranks just 46th nationally according to 247Sports says it all.

A frequent complaint about this year’s Rebel team is that they missed on most opportunities they had for a quality win. On top of the fact that they’ve won a handful of in-conference games against programs that have out-recruited them in recent years, complaints about Kennedy’s job performance do not align with logical thought. This idea that losing a few winnable games against good teams merits outrage is a dumb one that ignores the broader context.

Here is a neat fact that conveys Kennedy’s impact in Oxford.

One final stat that effectively makes the case for - nah just kidding here’s a dumb meme I made.