Photo credit: Ole Miss Athletics
OXFORD —Breein Tyree was the only one absent from a line of Ole Miss players and coaches making their way around The Pavilion, shaking hands and thanking fans after the season’s final home game: a 75-67 win over Missouri.
Many in the crowd searched for number four, waiting to send him off the floor one final time. Tyree was seated at the scorer’s table with the television crew doing a postgame interview. Upon its conclusion, Tyree made one final lap around the building by himself. He didn’t miss an outstretched hand or fist. A pair of students help up a red number four jersey a few rows back has he passed by. Tyree climbed over the floor seats to shake hands with a handicapped man a row back. For one final time, he exited the court that saw him morph from an ultra-athletic freshman to an All-SEC caliber guard.
“It was crazy that being my last time going around shaking hands,” Tyree said. “It was a great experience.”
Tyree scored 19 points on 6-9 shooting. Missouri held him to just six points in the first half, but Tyree’s 13 in the final 20 minutes helped will Ole Miss to a victory, as he’s done on countless occasions.
“He was really efficient tonight,” head coach Kermit Davis said. “I told Breein that’s the toughest 19 he’s had this year. . . He really kind of put us on his back in the second half.”
Ole Miss led by as many as 15 points in the first half behind a 19-point jolt from erratic sophomore wing Blake Hinson, who scored all of his points in the first 20 minutes on 7-12 shooting, before getting entangled in foul trouble and taking just two shots in the second half. Missouri shaved the margin to single digits in the final minutes of the first half and trailed 49-40. An 11-2 run to start the second half tied the game at 51 apiece.
That’s when Tyee finally shook loose from the glove-like defense of Missouri guard Dru Smith and was able to get to the rim with consistency, the most lethal vision of his repertoire. Tyree was 6-6 from the free throw line and made just one triple.
“When they started bringing back their lead and tied the game, I knew I had to be more aggressive,” Tyree said.
Ole Miss never lead by double digits again after Missouri tied the game, but also never trailed. Tyree was responsible for nine of a 10-2 spurt that gave the Rebels an eight-point cushion they wouldn’t relinquish. Missouri scored just 14 points in the final 13 minutes. Xavier Pinson led the Tigers with 16 points. He and Jeremiah Tilman (12) were the only two Tigers in double figures.
The crowd rose to its feat as the final seconds wound down. Tyree soaked in the moment, as did Davis, who offered his thoughts on the final days of a career he’s seen both sides of — as Tyree’s coach and as his opponent.
“There are a lot of people here that have had season tickets for a long time, both in the Tad Pad and here,” Davis said. “They’ve seen a lot of terrific players go through these buildings. That guy right there, guys like him don’t come around vey often. Just built to score like that, at all three levels”
This season has gone hardly how Tyree envisioned it in October. Ole Miss has limped to a 15-15 (6-11) record as its battled inconsistencies and lack of depth. Tyree rarely leaves the floor and the lack of a consistent secondary scorer has taxed him to his limits. He’s averaging 20 points per game and has re-written his career high three times in the last eight weeks alone. Through loss-after-loss, Tyree has brought it most every night. And his final chapter at home was among his most efficient.
“I didn’t take a lot of shots,” Tyree said. “But I feel like I still affected the game.”
He most always does.