Photo credit: Ole Miss Athletics
STARKVILLE —The game was played on Mississippi State’s terms and the lopsided result was indicative of that.
Ole Miss lost its season finale in Starkville 69-44. All-SEC forward Reggie Perry staked his claim around the rim and the Rebels offered little resistance. Perry scored 22 points and snared 14 rebounds. Eighteen of those came in the first half as the Bulldogs rode Perry to an 18-4 run to close the first half that proceeded a 39-25.
The game quickly devolved into a farce in the final 20 minutes. The Bulldogs opened the second half on an 8-0 spurt, never offering Ole Miss a glimmer of opportunity to claw back into the game.
When these two clubs met last month, it ended in a puzzling result after Breein Tyee went for a career-high 40 points in a blowout win for Ole Miss. This game followed a more believable script. The Bulldogs are a disastrous match up for Davis’ bunch on the interior and Ben Howland exploited that fact possession after possession. As a physical Mississippi State group played the role of aggressor, with Perry at the tip of the spear, it entangled Ole Miss’ hapless forwards in foul trouble. The Bulldogs shot shot 24 free throws with 19 makes. The Rebels committed 19 fouls.
“Just a man amongst boys,” Ole Miss Kermit Davis said. “Too physical. Too Big. Too strong. It’s amazing, we could guard him at home but not here. We couldn’t do anything. In that first half, when he was wound tight, we couldn’t even get to the double team. Give him credit. He’s a really good player.”
The Bulldogs hammered Ole Miss on the glass to the tune of a 42-30 advantage. Mississippi State grabbed 11 offensive rebounds, compiled 30 paint points and 16 second chance points. That, coupled with the way they defended Tyree, rendered Ole Miss completely helpless.
Tyree’s 11 points on 4-13 shooting was a far cry from his first crack at Mississippi State — a 40-point masterpiece that might be the defining moment of his career. Howland and the MSU backcourt assured that wouldn’t happen again. They doubled hard off ball screens, interrupting Tyree’s dribble and coaxing him further away from the basket.
“They trapped him and Breein takes one dribble and puts the ball over his head,” an exasperated Davis said. “When you trap good players, they make you pay. Breein didn’t do that. He’s struggled with that all year. . . He has to prove he can do that and we haven’t done that. Take an extra dribble or two, find someone open them pay for the double team.”
The suffocating tactic disrupted Ole Miss’ entire half-court offense. Tyree was unable to shoulder the heavy scoring burden he’s had to lug all season Nick Weatherspoon cut off driving lanes and matched Tyree’s quickness and athleticism. Tyree had just one field goal in the first half on five shots. Devontae Shuler’s 16 points were not nearly enough to supplement Tyree’s struggles.
Ole Miss was an awful road team this season, much to Davis’ displeasure. With just one true road win on the year — a 70-60 victory at Georgia that snapped a seven-game losing streak — The Rebels lost their final five contests on the road and posted a 1-10 record on the year.
“Toughness,” Davis said. “Sure we have lost a couple of close games on the road, but it is toughness. That is something our teams, wherever I have been, have always been very good on the road. Toughness on the road. We are not. We have played at times, at Kentucky or at Missouri, but we have had four or five of these as well. We were not competitive. That is something we have to fix for next year.”
Ole Miss’ fate was secured before this game began. Missouri’s win over Alabama on Saturday locked the Rebels into the 12 seed in the SEC Tournament. They play Georgia at 6 P.M. on Wednesday. A loss will end what has been a frustrating season for Davis in his second year at the helm. This defeat won’t send them into Bridgestone Arena with additional confidence.
“We will get together and watch the tape tomorrow,” Davis said. “But this won’t great momentum into Nashville. I don’t know, we will try to be better in practice. There’s no good message from this.”
Postgame Live: MSU 69 Ole Miss 44 https://t.co/Fe216zVqRS
— SportsTalk Mississippi (@SportsTalkMiss) March 8, 2020