Ole Miss hung around for a while through a barrage of three-point shooting and foul trouble against South Carolina on Tuesday night, but sputtered in the final six minutes of the game en route to a 79-64 loss.
What is there to make of this game? Well, let’s look inside to start. South Carolina was much more physical than the Rebels in the pain, a common thread in the team’s defeats this season. The Gamecocks snagged 16 offensive rebounds, held a 46-38 advantage on the glass and got to the free throw line 27 times. Dominik Olejniczak and Bruce Stevens got into foul trouble early, which didn’t help combat the likes of Chris Silva on the interior. It meant increased minutes for K.J. Buffen inside, who got in a bit of foul trouble himself. Silva had 18 points. The South Carolina guards crashed the glass hard in their own right. Hassani Gravett scored 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds. A.J. Lawson also poured in 15 and had nine rebounds. This is one of a couple fatal flaws for this team and one flaw led to another on this night. Ole Miss lacks depth and struggles in the front court. Its’ forwards got into foul trouble and played poorly when they were on the floor.
Olejniczak and Stevens each played 16 minutes. Ole Miss played 10 players in this game.
The Rebels’ defense was poor for extended stretches of this game. South Carolina was 9-of-19 from the three point line including 6-of-9 in the first half. Ole Miss opened the game on a 13-2 run and then began to get stagnant with the basketball in its half court offense. Its shot selection was poor and the Rebels were reluctant to get to the rim because of South Carolina’s size, similar to the LSU loss a month a go in the sense that the Rebels appeared a bit spooked with regards to getting to the rim after getting a look at just how big and physical the Gamecocks were inside. Ole Miss took 23 three-point shots in this game and made just five. It was 23-of-62 from the field in total for the game.
As the Rebels began to struggle offensively, South Carolina began to make perimeter jump shots and were rewarded with a lot of second chance opportunities because of Ole Miss’ rebounding ineptitude. Despite all of that, Ole Miss stayed within arm’s length and clawed back to a 61-61 tie with just over six minutes remaining in the game. Stevens was non-factor, Olejniczak wasn’t much better, but Ole Miss’ guards are special and kept it afloat for much of the second half. Terence Davis had 18 points and Breein Tyree scored 17 on 6-of-14 shooting
None of that was enough, though. South Carolina finished the game on an 18-3 run. Three of the Rebels’ poorest possessions of the game in their half court offense came after tying the game.
To surmise it simply, Ole Miss needed Olejniczak to and Stevens to play above their heads against South Carolina’s front court and the Rebels needed to force a lot of turnovers in the back court. The team latter didn’t receive the former and the latter netted just 10 turnovers.
What does the loss mean? Well, it makes Saturday’s home game against Georgia a little more interesting than it already was. The Rebels are still in decent shape sitting at 18-8 and 8-5 in the SEC. The general consensus is 10 league wins gets Ole Miss into the NCAA Tournament with no questions asked. A win Saturday would be its ninth and gives it four chances to win one, essentially, with road games at Missouri and Arkansas, along with home games against Tennessee and Kentucky. A loss on Saturday and the Rebels’ margin for error is essentially gone, nevermind the fact that Georgia is not good and would be an unflattering blemish on a resume that doesn’t have any at the moment.
Tipoff is set for 2:30 P.M.
Photo Credit: Joshua McCoy — Ole Miss Athletics