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Ole Miss basketball unable to pull off upset at South Carolina despite 2nd half surge

Ole Miss basketball
Photos courtesy of Ole Miss Athletics

Ole Miss came up just short in the men’s basketball team’s pursuit to earn a second consecutive road win over a conference foe as No.15 South Carolina held on to win Tuesday’s game 68-65.

A strong surge in the second half was followed up by a five-minute scoring drought that ultimately prevented the Rebels (18-5, 5-5 SEC) from giving the Gamecocks (20-3, 8-2) their second loss in Colonial Life Arena this season.

Despite a relatively efficient first-half scoring stint by Ole Miss, South Carolina shot at a higher clip from beyond the three-point line to put Chris Beard’s team behind the eight-ball early, forcing the Rebels to play from behind for the vast majority of the contest.

Ole Miss jumped out to a 4-2 lead early, but an exceptional shooting performance by the Gamecocks overshadowed the Rebels. For the first five minutes of action, Ole Miss kept things within reach as veterans Jaemyn Brakefeld, Matthew Murrell, and Allen Flanigan connected on contested shots to keep things close.

At the 14:25 mark, South Carolina went on a 20-7 run over the next five minutes with 15 of the points coming from three-point range. Gamecock guard Myles Stute knocked down nine points in the run.

Trailing 30-17, a pair of jumpers from Jaylen Murray and a layup by Moussa Cisse allowed Ole Miss to piece together a mini-run to cut the deficit to seven.

South Carolina continued to step on the gas, knocking down another triple and taking advantage of Ole Miss’ small ball lineup to post a 43-31 lead at halftime. No matter what Ole Miss did defensively, South Carolina had an answer. The Gamecocks shot an impressive 62% from the floor in the first half, including a 50% outing from three.

The second half started disastrously for the Rebels. The Gamecocks opened up on a 6-3 run to take a 17-point lead — its largest of the night. Ole Miss attempted to cut into the deficit, but South Carolina countered every Rebel bucket with a score of their own.

Just when it seemed that all hope was lost, Ole Miss, down 55-39 with just under 14 minutes left of play, found new life and a chance to steal a win in a league where victories have not been found on the road often.

Led by a heroic showing from Flanigan, the Rebels went on a 19-6 run over the next six minutes of play to get back into a one-possession game with 7:32 left on the clock. The Auburn transfer scored 11 points during the offensive spark.

Ole Miss’ scoring stretch then came to a near screeching halt. The Rebels connected on just two shots in the last seven minutes of action, but a slow second half for South Carolina’s offense kept Beard’s team in the game.

Down just three points in the waning seconds of the half, Murrell elected not to find a more comfortable look and heaved up an unsuccessful triple to cement the win for the Gamecocks. Beard protested the referees’ decision not to blow a whistle on the shot as Murrell was undoubtedly grabbed, but the head coach’s voice fell on deaf ears.

In a game that Ole Miss arguably let slip away, the Rebels shot at a higher volume than the Gamecocks percentage-wise. Ole Miss was 51% on field goals compared to South Carolina’s 47%. The differences came at the three-point line and in second chance opportunities. South Carolina had 27 points from behind the arc. Ole Miss had 12. The Gamecocks had 16 second-chance points. The Rebels had six.

Flanigan, in what was his best game in SEC play, scored 40% of Ole Miss’ points, putting up 26 on the scoreboard. Murrell posted 17 and Jaylen Murray scored 10. Flanigan and Murrell scored 28 of the team’s 34 points in the second half. Seven-foot-five center Jamarion Sharp, after missing Saturday’s game with an illness, had the other six.

Collin Murray-Boyles’ 16 points topped the stat sheet for the Gamecocks. Ta’Lon Cooper and Stute added 12 points apiece. All of Stute’s points came behind the arc where he shot 80%.

Ole Miss will have a six-day break before the team returns to action. The Rebels will face off at No. 17 Kentucky next Tuesday at 8 p.m. central.

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