photo credit: Petre Thomas — Ole Miss Athletics
OXFORD — Kermit Davis had a lengthy, wide-ranging discussion with senior guard Breein Tyree before Monday’s practice.
This frustrating campaign is not how Tyree envisioned his final college season unfolding. Davis encouraged Tyree there is still a lot of basketball to be played and to focus on the present. Tyree responded by scoring a career high 38 points in an 84-70 win over South Carolina on Wednesday night.
“His heart is in a great place,” Davis said. “Let’s just go win February. Focus on today. Do what you can do to win February and worry about nothing else. He really led. He had his best two practices in a while.”
Tyree was 12-21 from the field and 3-5 from three-point range. The dominance rectified back-to-back performances in which he struggled and the team lost — a heartbreaker in double overtime to Auburn and then a second loss at LSU. This season has been a trying one for Tyree. Two weeks ago, he battled his emotions in a postgame press conference after scoring 36 in a home loss to LSU, a game in which the team blew a double-digit lead. Tyree was 9-9 from the free throw line that night. The rest of the team was 0-10. It was a bit of a microcosm for how the year has gone as the Rebels have lacked a consistent scorer to compliment their All-SEC guard.
“I always want to be there to help my team, whether it is scoring or defending,” Tyree said. “Basketball is a funny game, man. Sometimes when a team gets rolling, there isn’t much you can do.. We just need to keep this going on Saturday.”
Ole Miss thrashed South Carolina from the jump. It opened the game on an 8-0 run and led wire-to-wire. The Rebels killed the Gamecocks on the glass to the tune of a 39-29 advantage and turned them over 14 times. The secondary scoring behind Tyree that has often been lacking, arrived in the form of struggling sophomore Blake Hinson. He poured in 13 points with seven rebounds on 3-6 shooting.
“I think that might have been the best he’s played since he has been here,” Davis said. “I know he scored 26 last year at Mississippi State and made every three, but he is maturing as a player. He is not settling. He is trying to drive the ball. He went to the line six times tonight. I think he’d only been eight times the whole SEC season. He played like a good college player tonight.”
Khadim Sy scored 10 points and snared eight rebounds in 28 minutes despite exiting the game midway through the second half with a cramp. Ole Miss was short-handed in the front court. Davis said Sammy Hunter banged up his knee in practice and will be out a week or two. The trickle down effect of Hunter’s absence was 21 minutes for freshman Antavion Collum and a healthy dose of action at the five spot for K.J. Buffen, who had seven points in 24 minutes.
This win was a collective exhale for a team that suffered a gut punch in their own building eight days ago as a win over Auburn slipped away, only to be trounced in Baton Rouge four days after that. Ole Miss had blown four double-digit leads in eight SEC games entering this one. Tonight, they finished the job.
Davis encouraged Tyree to stay positive in that meeting, citing that anything can happen. Ole Miss has played with two of the best three teams in the SEC in LSU and Auburn, and had both on the ropes. He urged Tyree to stay in the moment as he enters the final days of his collegiate career. Their collective goal was to win the month of February. Wednesday’s win was a step toward achieving that goal.
“It felt good to win an SEC game at home,” Davis said. “This steam still has some good basketball left in it. Anything can happen.”