It was the first home sell out crowd that any of the Ole Miss players had seen before. The Tad Smith Coliseum transformed from a dome filled with empty silver bleachers to an unending rainbow of reds bonded together in support of their “roundball Rebs”. With the support of 9,000 screaming fans, the Rebels delivered, and it wasn’t even close. Ole Miss not only won the game 64-49, but the Tigers never even led.
Ole Miss built an early 9-0 lead, holding Mizzou scoreless for the first 6:35 of the game. What followed was a series of traded buckets, ending in a 31-22 lead for the home team at the break.
The Tigers never seemed to get it together offensively without their leading scorer Laurence Bowers. Coming in averaging 78.9 ppg, the Rebels held them to almost 30 points below their season average. The previous low for Missouri this season was 61, in a loss to No.2 Louisville back in November.
Ole Miss was 38-44 from the free throw line against Tennessee and continued that success in this one. Jarvis Summers, Murphy Holloway, and Marshall Henderson combined for all 20 attempts as the trio went 15-20, including 8-8 from Summers. Ole Miss was relatively successful at staying out of foul trouble as Missouri shot just six free throws.
Holloway, currently the only SEC player averaging a double-double, scored a game-high 22 points to go along with his 8 rebounds. He was 8-12 from the field and nabbed 4 steals, constantly finding himself around the ball. Holloway turned the ball over just once and avoided foul trouble, allowing himself to be a huge factor.
After coming into the game as the conference’s leading scorer, Henderson was held to just 11 points. The Tigers did a great job of hanging a trailer on the scorer, rarely allowing him a decent look at a shot. Despite his low scoring output, he played great defense, tallying 3 steals and never appeared intimidated against the strong Tiger backcourt. Henderson’s biggest contribution might have been never allowing the crowd to get out of the game, firing them up whenever possible. He even got Andy Kennedy into the mix, with the Rebel coach signaling the home crowd to make some noise during a mild comeback by Missouri in the second half.
Summers and Derrick Millinghaus played well at point guard, combining for 20 points and just 2 turnovers. The scoring from Summers and the quick burst and pesky defense from Millinghaus held Phil Pressey relatively in check. Pressey scored just 10 points while dishing out 5 assists. The all-conference point guard also had a game-high 5 turnovers.
Through persistent guard play, toughness from Holloway, and a lot of hustle plays, Ole Miss was able to win the turnover battle 19-12. Aaron Jones drew the crowd’s favor after falling into the first row going for a loose ball. It was the kind of moment you like to see from any college player and it showed the determination that Ole Miss showed to win the game.
In an unusual twist of fate, Reginald Buckner was held scoreless on the day. That’s not to say that his presence was not felt in the ball game. He grabbed 10 boards and provided good help defense when he was in the game, something not shown by other Rebels through much of the game. Missouri came into the game leading the nation in rebounding at 45.3 rpg, but Ole Miss outmuscled them 33-31 in a crucial victory on the glass.
Jabari Brown and Keion Bell were the only Tigers besides Pressey to score in double-figures, contributing 13 and 11 respectively. Both players tied for the team-lead in rebounds with 7 apiece. Missouri went 11 players deep, but only amassed 8 points off the bench. The team actually had three more fouls committed (11) than they did bench points.
Missouri is now 12-3 and 1-1 in conference, and will return to play at home this Wednesday when they take on the hapless Georgia Bulldogs. It should be an easy way to regain their footing as Georgia is 6-9 and have lost their two conference games to Florida and Mississippi State by a combined 44 points. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. CT from Columbia, Mo.
Ole Miss is now in sole possession of first place in the SEC with a record of 13-2 and 2-0 in the SEC. They will return to the road on Tuesday as they take the jaunt up Highway 7 to Nashville to face off against the Vanderbilt Commodores (6-8, 0-2). Gametime is 8 p.m. CT from the Music City.