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Rebels not yet ready for primetime, blown out by Tennessee

It’s year one, stuff happens

NCAA Basketball: Mississippi at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

It was fun while it latest.

One of the most entertaining stories of the 2023-24 college basketball season was the top 25 Ole Miss Rebels ripping off 13 wins to start the year undefeated.

The Rebels won only 12 games all of last season, and first year head coach Chris Beard seemed to have rebuilt the roster to click almost immediately with its non-conference run. But then entered the No. 5 Tennessee Volunteers who put a more than realistic spin to this fairy tale with a 90-64 win in Knoxville on Saturday.

Early on, Ole Miss battled in the first half to keep the lead at single digits and were down 37-31 hurtling toward halftime, but a last second three pointer from the Vols to make it 40-31 at the half was a precursor of things to come. All the momentum swung with that one shot possibly or the truth of the matter set in - Ole Miss is not ready to compete for a whole game with a top five squad.

Tennessee outscored Ole Miss by 17 points in the second half led in scoring by Jonas Aidoo with 24 while point guard Zakai Ziegler dropped in 17 of his own. The Vols defense at the same time held Ole Miss’ best scorers to below its averages - Matthew Murrell with nine points, Juju Murray with 11 points and Allen Flanigan with 10 points.

Next up for the Rebels is Florida visiting Oxford in the midweek. The Gators and Rebels tip off at 8 p.m. on Wednesday and will be broadcast on the SEC Network.