Ole Miss only beat Missouri by ten points on Saturday, but the game wasn’t even that close.
The Rebels’ suffocating 1-3-1 defense forced the young Tigers into 25 turnovers while Bruce Stevens and K.J. Buffen poured in a combined 31 points off the bench. With the 75-65 W in Oxford, Ole Miss has now reeled off four-straight SEC wins.
Before the game, I said that for the Tigers to win they would need to see good performances out of guards Jordan Geist, Javon Pickett and Jermiah Tilmon. Geist did his part offensively with 23 points on 16 shots but Pickett, a freshman, struggled to adapt to the complex defenses he saw. Tilmon, 6’10” and fresh off a 21-point performance against Arkansas, fouled out with 15 minutes played. He couldn’t get anything going, finishing with four points and four rebounds.
The trio of Terence Davis, Breein Tyree and Devontae Shuler was productive for the Rebs, but none were especially electric offensively, combining for 35 points. Shuler continued show how special of a defender he is, abusing hapless guards and logging five steals. Turnovers were the story of the game, as the Rebels forced twenty-five of them. The 1-3-1 and a constant, attacking approach were just too much for the young Tigers to handle.
In addition to steals, blocks, and simply throwing passes out of bounds, Missouri managed to be called for four charges drawn by the Rebels. Ole Miss was well-positioned while playing defense, which allowed them to set their feet and make the Tigers go through them.
What does this win mean?
Not a whole lot, really. Ole Miss was supposed to (and had to) win this one. Winning was never going to be a big deal, given that Missouri is in the 90s in NET, but losing would have been very, very troubling. That didn’t happen, and that keeps plenty of NCAA tournament hope alive
Where do the Rebels stand?
I’ll let other Red Cup writer pontificate more in-depth on where the Rebels stack up in NCAA tournament discussions. I know Jerry Palm currently has the Rebels in as an eight-seed. The most important thing is just to keep winning the games you’re supposed to win and maybe try to steal one or two in which they’re not favored.
Ole Miss’ NET score is going to be somewhere around 30 after this win, which would place them squarely in the tournament (barring some absurd levels of leagues that should be one-bid seeing upsets in conference tournament games). No one expected anything like this six months ago.
What happens next?
The Rebels travel to South Carolina on Tuesday in a game they really need to win. Losing to South Carolina in Columbia wouldn’t be devastating, but their NET score isn’t too great (90s). A larger element to this game though is that the Gamecocks have somehow been pretty good in SEC play, sitting at 8-4 in the conference. If Ole Miss cares about SEC tournament seeding, it needs to knock off the teams who are jockeying along with it for those same seeds.