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A day after: Four observations from Ole Miss’ win at Mississippi State

Ole Miss knocked off its second ranked opponent in four days after going on the road to take an 81-77 decision from 14th-ranked Mississippi State.

Here are four observations from a win that capped a season-altering week for the Rebels under first-year head coach Kermit Davis

  1. Weathering the storm.

  Ole Miss had countless opportunities to fold in this game. It trailed by 10 midway through the first half and then by eight early on the in the second half. The Rebels were on the back end of an emotional week that already saw them beat a top-15 team. The week would’ve been considered a major step forward even with a loss in Starkville, but Ole Miss answered collected itself and crawled back into the game each time. They trimmed a double-digit first-half deficit to two heading into halftime and quickly erased the eight-point margin in the second half.

“I am so proud of our team,” Kermit Davis said. “We finally went to the zone and got them stopped some what. We really just stopped the bleeding and got into halftime. We got out rebounded, we were losing the 50-50 balls and were only down two, so we felt good at halftime.”

This was a season-changing week for a team that has surprised most everyone in college basketball. The Rebels will be ranked next week in all of the polls and possibly around the top 15. The season is still young and there are 15 more conference games to be played, but Ole Miss is sitting in a position most didn’t think it would be be sitting in.

2. Shuler invaluable to keeping things cohesive late.

Ole Miss has now gone on the road twice in the SEC and salted away two games late down the stretch in which it led. The Rebels weren’t favored to win either one. Saturday was the first time you saw the team lose its composure a little bit. Three players got technicals, and to be fair that really stemmed from the chippy nature of the rivalry game rather than Ole Miss coming unglued, but the point being is that Ole Miss is able to run good, efficient half court offense to get quality looks late in games. A good bit of that is due to the sure-handed play of Devontae Shuler, whose transition to point guard has been arguably the most signifiant reason this team is sits where it currently does. 

“He is a stabilizer on our team,” Kermit Davis said. “He runs sets. He is so unselfish and gets us into what we are trying to do. These guys can tell you, we have Breein and TD and all of these guys, but Devontae plays most valuable minutes every night for us.”

Shuler’s move to the point has allowed Breein Tyree to play off the ball and Ole Miss is an entirely different team offensively as a result. Having a second wing scorer opposite of Terence Davis puts more stress on opposing defenses. Watch when Shuler goes out of the game and Tyree is moved to point, the Rebels look much different offensively than when he is on the floor. There is a reason Shuler leads the team in minutes played.

3. Surviving a scare with Tyree

The one fatal flaw with this team is that it doesn’t have much depth, hardly any depth to be frank. The loss of freshman point guard Franco Miller for the season hurts and none of the bench trio comprised of Luis Rodriguez, Zach Naylor and Brian Halums have played consistently well enough for Kermit Davis to justify playing them significant minutes. Former walk-on D.C. Davis is playing 10.8 minutes per night, and that isn’t a slight to Davis. He’s played well enough in stretches, it is just an example of the reality of the current roster situation.

Breein Tyree absorbed the blow of a hard screen from Bulldog power forward Aric Holman — a legal play but hard play — and hit the floor writhing in pain and grabbing his shoulder left shoulder. Tyree went to the locker room in what appeared to be a serious injury, but returned  to the game a few minutes later. Ole Miss dodged a bullet and nearly lost a significant piece to a thin rotation. 

“It was severe pain to begin with,” Tyree said. “But in a game like that adrenaline takes over and when I was on the court, no pain.” 

Kermit Davis had no problem with the play either, calling it a hard, but legal screen.

“It shows a lot of his character and toughness for him to come back,” Kermit Davis said. “Not only to come back and play, but continue to play when he wasn’t making a lot of shots. That is what experienced guards, experienced players do. You have to draw from those guys.”

4. Blake Hinson

The freshman was undoubtedly the story of this game with his 26 points and five rebounds. He nearly single-handedly kept Ole Miss afloat offensively at times in the second half and grabbed a couple of tough rebounds down the stretch. Ole Miss needed a lift with Terence Davis in foul trouble and Tyree having a frustrating day. Hinson was up to the task and flashed what Kermit Davis thinks is the potential of a future All-SEC player.

“He puts in so much work,” Kermit Davis said. “Blake is there every single day early. When he gets to the gym, he runs in full speed. That is just kind of how he is built.  Good things happen to guys who put that work like he does. On national tv against one of the best four-men in the country in Holman, Blake showed up in a big day.”

Ole Miss has seemingly had a different player carry the load in its three conference games thus far, and if Hinson can give any semblance of that type of scoring on a nightly basis, it greatly will greatly change the dynamic of this team offensively.

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