“Whose state?” Blake Hinson bellowed rhetorically into the camera. “Our state!”
One could hardly blame the dude for letting his emotions run hot. The freshman had just dropped a career-high 26 points in the toughest road environment of his young career, buoying Ole Miss to a shocking 81-77 win over 14th-ranked Mississippi State. Back in the locker room of Humphrey Coliseum, he and his teammates were celebrating their second win over a top-15 division foe in the span of four days.
“All these guys have a lot of fight in them. They love to win,” a much calmer Hinson told the NCAA’s Andy Katz an hour later. “There’s a lot of toughness in this group of people.”
Toughness indeed. At several points on Saturday it looked like State was starting to pull away with the game. After an Ole Miss run cut the deficit to two points heading into the half, the Bulldogs opened the second frame with a 9-3 run. The Rebels seemed rattled, committing a pair of turnovers and missing two shots and a free throw in the opening three minutes. The maroon-and-camo-clad crowd of 10,000 could sense their hated rival was on the ropes and roared for the knockout punch.
And there, in the middle of all that chaos, with his team wounded and the crowd smelling blood, Hinson calmly pulled up from behind the arc.
He did the same thing his next time down the court. Heating up.
Again on the next possession. Fire.
Hinson drilled three straight treys to haul Ole Miss back to within three points. After a Bruce Stevens three gave the Rebels the lead a couple of minutes later, they didn’t trail again for the rest of the game.
Hinson finished 8-of-16 from the field and 5-of-11 from deep, tossing in five rebounds, two steals and a block for good measure. His 26 points is the most by an Ole Miss freshman since Jarvis Summers dropped 27 against Penn State in 2011 and the most by a frosh in an SEC game since Dundrecous Nelson scored 30 against Auburn the season before. On the season, Hinson is averaging just shy of 10 points per game while shooting 40 percent from three.
In his post-game interview with Katz, Hinson told a story about Kermit Davis’ first day as head coach. Davis strolled up the white board and wrote “national,” underlining it four or five times. “We should be a national team as long as you have the attitude,” he told his new team. “We have the players.”
When the Associated Press releases its updated rankings on Monday, Ole Miss will be included somewhere in the country’s top 20. The Rebels are the talk of college basketball after their shocking week of upsets. For the moment at least, they’re very much a national team.
Hinson is at the center of it all. Terence Davis and Breein Tyree are certainly the leaders of this team, but Hinson is increasingly becoming a critical piece in both the Rebels’ present and future.
“First time on the road, man.* Archrival. He goes for 26,” Terence Davis said while seated beside Hinson in the locker room on Saturday. “If that don’t let you know about the future, then I don’t know.”
.@TerenceDavisJr gave us the breakdown on @B_Hinson21’s big night.— OMSP (@OleMissVideo) January 12, 2019
“If that don’t let you know about the future of @OleMissMBB , then I don’t know!”
They sure know now TD #WAOM pic.twitter.com/jrOwj0RB2J
*Hinson started on the road vs. Vandy a couple weeks ago, but we get your point, T.D.