Photo credit: Petre Thomas — Ole Miss Athletics
Jackson, Miss — Ole Miss escaped the Mississippi Coliseum with an 83-76 win over Southeastern Louisiana on Saturday afternoon, but defended like a team that desired to be defeated.
Meridian native Tyron Brewer terrorized the Rebels on the offensive end, dropping 30 points on 13-of-17 shooting. Brewer lugged his undersized and overmatched team along as far as he could.
“He kicked our tail in every way possible today,” an exasperated Kermit Davis said. “We had no one that could guard him.”
Ole Miss ran a number of different defenders at Brewer — who shot the basketball from three-point range better than he has all season at a 4-of-5 clip —with marginal results. In the second half, Davis stuck K.J. Buffen on Brewer primarily and Buffen’s length made things a little more difficult on the sophomore. Brewer had 17 in a first half that saw the Lions enter the locker room trailing by a point.
Davis was flummoxed at his team’s energy level and defensive effort. The Rebels lost men in transition, got beat off the dribble and allowed a slew of unchallenged baskets as a result. Throw in a couple of tough jump shots from Brewer and it equated to Southeastern shooting 58 percent from the field for the game.
“At times, I didn’t know what team I was coaching,” Davis said. “We couldn’t get matched up. The energy level was not good.. Everything we could do wrong defensively, we did it.”
Breein Tyree scored 14 points on an inefficient 5-of-15 shooting in 37 minutes. Davis was displeased with his defense. The Lions were 10-of-15 from three as a team and outscored Ole Miss 32-30 in the paint despite being out-rebounded by 12. Translation: The Rebels’ perimeter defense was poor and Southeastern got to the line with ease.
“We couldn’t keep them out of the paint,” Davis said. “They had 24 assists on 32 made baskets. That’s a team doing whatever it wants to do.”
Devontae Shuler scored 11 points with six assists. As a team, Ole Miss had 19 assists on 30 made baskets with just 13 turnovers. The team distributed the ball well despite the repeated lapses on the other end of the floor.
The primary reason Davis’ group escaped a would-be catastrophic defeat was the simple fact that they were bigger and longer than the Lions. Khadim Sy scored a team-leading 20 points and snared seven rebounds. Southeastern didn’t have anyone equipped to handle Sy in the post man-to-man and a zone look offered little resistance, though it kept the game at arm’s length because of Ole Miss’ 7-24 mark from three-point range. The Rebels shot 25 free throws to the Lions’ five.
Sy could sense the game falling into his hands as he knew there was no one on the opposing roster that could match up with him. Davis ran a boatload of offense through him down the stretch.
“He is always telling me that I cannot just play average,” Sy said. “I know when I do I let the team down. Our defensive game tonight was not very good and I knew we were going to have to outscore them.”
Ole Miss is now 8-3 as it enters into the central portion of Christmas break. They have an eight-day break between games and have two non-conference contests left before SEC play begins. A home game with Tennessee Tech awaits next Sunday before a trip to Wichita State caps the non-conference slate. The Shockers are 10-1 with wins over Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and South Carolina. The Rebels have work to do between now and then as this team tries to mesh into a more cohesive unit.
“We are fortunate to get out of here with a win,” Davis said. “We’ve got to get back to work.”