Ole Miss gravitated back towards the earth a bit in its 83-69 loss to LSU on Tuesday night at The Pavilion.
The Rebels ran into a team that is long, athletic and talented in the low post. Ole Miss struggled to finish around the rim and its shot selection was poor.
“We had no ball movement,” Kermit Davis said. “Didn’t trust the offense in the first half. The ball never really got off the ground and we were dribbling for shots. (Karvell) Bigby-Williams dominated the game at the rim. We couldn’t get anything off around the rim.”
Terence Davis led Ole Miss with 21 points n 8-of-20 shooting, a stat line reflective of how the night went for Ole Miss, inefficient from the field and frustrated by the length of the Tigers. Breein Tyree had 11. Tremont Waters had 20 points and nine assists for LSU, including a couple of three pointers that squashed any sort of momentum the Rebels tried to garner in the second half after they fell behind.
Both teams limped to a 31-31 tie in the first half before LSU began to impose its will in the second half of the game, jumping out to a lead that swelled as high as 12 points. The Tigers turned Ole Miss over 16 times, snagged 14 steals and scored 32 paint points.
“That is the hardest I have seen LSU guard,” Kermit Davis said. “I have watched like five tapes and it isn’t even close. That is the hardest I have seen play and the hardest I have seen them guard. Their team had a purpose. We just got intimidated around the rim.”
Bigby-Williams scored 14 points and pulled 10 rebounds. He was a force around the rim defensively and frustrated Ole Miss off the bounce. Terence Davis certainly felt Williams’ presence.
“Bigby-Williams, oh my god,” Terence Davis said. “He is long. I don’t know if he is a McDonald’s All-American or not, but how many boards did he have? Ten? Four offensive? That is where they won the game. They got extra possessions.”
Toss in an uncharacteristically bad night from the free throw line and Ole Miss was left to deal with an unkind result. It shot 9-of-17 from the line for the game.
“They have been killing people rom the foul line,” LSU head coach Will Wade said. “I mean they were outscoring teams 61-37 in SEC from the free throw line. Everyone gets caught up in the three-point shooting, but that is the margin in their wins. We wanted to control the foul line and the only way you do that is attack, force them to foul you and then defend without fouling. We win by 13 and the free throw margin is 11 points. That is where the margins have been for Ole Miss.”
So, what does this mean for Ole Miss? Well, to put it simply, it ran into a team that was better than them in the low post — something that was thought to be this team’s weakness heading into the year — and got exposed. Bigby-Williams’ presence inside was overbearing and his rim protection stymied the Rebels’ guards trying to get to the rim off the bounce. It was Ole Miss’ first loss since Nov. 24 after reeling off 10 consecutive victories. The Rebels are 13-3 (3-1) with a home game against Arkansas on Saturday. Picking off two ranked teams last week increased their margin for error by a wide margin.
But where does this team lack much margin for error? Depth, and specially health. Kermit Davis said after the game that Devontae Shuler has been hobbled with a foot injury for “about a week-and-a-half,” and has not practiced much. Terence Davis said he believed Shuler was dealing with some sort of stress fracture.
“We don’t have much margin for error with two or three of those guys,” Kermit Davis said. “It is just one of those games for us, but we are going to have to let it go and get ready for Arkansas.”
Shuler is the most invaluable piece on the team. His ability to play the point allows Breein Tyree to play off the ball. Ole Miss is a better team when this happens and undoubtedly struggles more offensively when Tyree is forced to play point guard. With freshman Franco Miller out for the season, Tyree is the de facto backup and will have to play more point if Shuler is forced to miss time.
“Breein is going to have to play there,” Kermit Davis said. “We need him off the ball more, but he is going to have to play there some. Devontae is tough and he is going to try.”
Kermit Davis said they will evaluate Shuler and decide what to do moving forward. He noted D.C. Davis will likely see time at point guard too.
As for now, Ole Miss is forced to rebound from its first dose of adversity in quite a while.
“We will respond,” Terence Davis said. “I will make sure of that.”