Breein Tyree and Terence Davis weren’t enough to overcome a balanced South Carolina attack Tuesday night in Columbia, fading down the stretch of a 79-64 loss.
Tyree and Davis combined for 35 points but went a combined 2-for-12 from behind the arc, accentuating a moribund team 21.7 percent from three point range.
The loss snapped what was a four-game winning streak for the Rebels (now 18-8 overall and 8-5 in SEC play) and drops them out of a fourth-place tie with South Carolina, which now stands at 9-4 in league play.
The Rebels started the game with a 13-2 advantage, controlling tempo and playing well in every phase of the game. But a lot of yelling from rage-a-holic USC coach Frank Martin woke this team up. Sakerlina pushed the tempo often and used great spacing to stretch the Rebel defense and find open looks from deep. The Gamecocks shot 47 percent from three-point range.
Ole Miss was dominated down low for most of the night. The Rebels posted a -8 rebounding margin, allowing South Carolina’s Chris Silva and A.J. Lawson to essentially build a small village under the goal. They took advantage, combining for 33 points and 13 rebounds.
Rebel big men Bruce Stevens and Dominik Olejniczak, meanwhile, scored just five points and five rebounds combined. That’s not enough production down low to win many games.
Hassani Gravett was the X factor for USC, scoring 15 points off the bench. The Rebels had no answer for him; Kermit Davis used 10 players in the game but couldn’t find the right mix to pull off the win.
This loss doesn’t sink the Rebels’ tournament resume by any means. A road loss to a top-100 NET team doesn’t do that.
Still, the No. 93 Gamecocks currently stand as the Rebels’ worse loss of the season (the previous worst was No. 50 Alabama). South Carolina seems poised to make a run at the NCAA Tournament, so Rebel fans should be pulling for them to improve their NET ranking.
The loss does mean it is extremely unlikely the Rebels will get a top four seed and a double bye in the SEC Tournament. It also puts a lot of pressure on the remaining five games, which includes home matchups against top-five Kentucky and Tennessee.
If the Rebels can answer this loss with a win Saturday against a bad Georgia team and split the final four games, that should be enough for a place in March Madness.