Ole Miss traveled to Knoxville Wednesday night to play a basketball game. The Rebels were to take on the 18th ranked Tennessee Volunteers in their SEC opener. They were tasked with taking down an overrated Rick Barnes team without their senior point guard Jarkel Joiner, which ultimately proved to be crucial as Ole Miss turned the ball over a season high 27 times.
The tightly contested loss on the road probably says more about Tennessee than providing any hope that Ole Miss hoops could make some noise. Simply put, this team just doesn’t have it. Sure, they could repeat last season with a late season surge, but NIT seems best case scenario for this squad at the moment.
1 Player of the Game
Matthew Murrell had 17 points on 6-9 shooting, hitting 4 of 6 shots from behind the arc. The sophomore flashed that potential that made him the highest ranked recruit in Rebels history yet again. You would imagine had Joiner been available, Murrell would've gotten easier looks, but his ability to create for himself will continue to be crucial.
So why Murrell and not Tye Fagan who had 23 points and 5 assists? Despite his career day shooting behind the arc (5-6) the senior guard was wildly disappointing as a leader down the stretch. Without Joiner, the Rebels needed someone to step up and steady the ship, Fagan should have been that guy. Ruffin is a freshman and Murrell isn’t a floor general and while Fagan isn’t Jarvis Summers or Breein Tyree, he's a veteran that has to lead his team in those moments. Instead he had 5 turnovers.
3 Key Stats
4 - That is how many minutes freshman guard James White played in this game. That was 4 minutes too many. He looked downright awful. From the dribble pull up airball to the porous defense, Kermit should've kept his rotation at 8 players and left this kid on the bench. He isn’t ready.
11 - The Tennessee Volunteers got 11 offensive rebounds to the Rebels’ 5. The craziest part is that Ole Miss shot 50% from deep while UT shot 29%. How do you compensate for shooting poorly? Crashing the glass for second chance points.
27 - Turnovers. A season high. That’s it. Literally the entire story of the loss. 27 turnovers. Maybe Kermit should recruit a point guard or two. IDK.
1 Important Observation
This team is intensely frustrating as the pieces are there. A dynamic wing scorer in Murrell, a veteran wing slasher in Tye Fagan, a dominant defensive and rebounding big in Nysier Brooks, a stretch forward in Brakefield, all around perimeter guy in Luis Rodriguez and two beyond good but not yet great “point guards” in Daeshun Ruffin and Jarkel Joiner.
That tells me that the coaching staff has yet to find a way to piece this together and make it work. Often times coaches are stuck on their ideals and attempt to fit the roster into them rather than building a system around the players available. Murrell is criminally underused and should be a featured player while Davis needs to let Ruffin blossom on ball with Joiner going off next to him.
Give me this lineup:
Ruffin - Joiner - Murrell - Brakefield - Brooks
Crowley, Fagan and Rodriguez can come off the bench.
The Rebels would play small, but the starting lineup could spread the floor and create space for Ruffin-Brooks pick and rolls or Ruffin driving and kicking out to three guys on the perimeter that can knock it down.
This was an expected loss, but Ole Miss athletics just did what they always do, give us hope and then rip it from us. A blow out would have been easier on the ole heart and soul.
SEC play continues when the Rebs host rivals Mississippi State on Saturday at 7:30pm.