Photos Courtesy of Ole Miss/MSU Athletics
For the first time this season, Ole Miss and Mississippi State won a conference game on the same day as the Rebels were able to take down Florida, and the Bulldogs used a big second half to beat Vanderbilt. The next time these two teams step on the court, it will be for their first head-to-head matchup of the season.
Below, you’ll get a breakdown of each of Saturday’s games from SportsTalk Mississippi’s beat reporters Brian Scott Rippee and Brian Hadad.
Ole Miss earns back-to-back SEC wins for the first time this season in 68-51 drubbing of Florida
- Story by SportsTalk Mississippi Ole Miss Beat Reporter Brian Scott Rippee
A week ago, in the moments after a crushing double-overtime defeat to Auburn, Kermit Davis remarked that he felt his team was better than its poor record.
At the time, Ole Miss was 10-10 (1-6), and the manner in which it was defeated that night was reflective of how it arrived at that record — unable to salt away a double-digit lead in the second half.
This week, the Rebels have proved Davis to be prophetic after back-to-back top-100 NET wins, the latest a 68-51 thrashing of Florida on Saturday. It is the first time Ole Miss has won back-to-back top 100 games since beating Auburn and Missouri on February 13 and 16 of last year.
Breein Tyree scored 23 on 9-19 shooting and Devontae Shuler complimented that with 14 of his own. Ole Miss held Florida to 33 percent shooting and turned the Gators over 15 times.
“That is the best we have defended for 40 minutes all year long,” Davis said. “We kept getting stop after stop.”
Ole Miss seized control of this game early with a 20-3 run that spanned seven minutes and led for just under 37 minutes of this game. So often, the Rebels have played well for pieces of a game and built up a double-digit lead like the one they had early on in this one, only to crumble down the stretch. The way Ole Miss defended, coupled with a few key perimeter jump shots from Tyree down the stretch, ensured that didn’t happen. Florida cut the deficit to two early on in the second half, but the Rebels quickly ballooned it back out to 10 and didn’t look back.
“We got some quality stops defensively,” Shuler said. “I feel like we have a good chance to keep this going and get some quality wins.”
Shuler has found his rhythm offensively over the last couple of weeks. He’s averaging 19 points per game over his last four and is providing the supplementary scoring behind Tyree that this club has lacked for the majority of this season. Shuler’s shot selection has been better and he is driving to the rim more often, and doing so with more of a purpose.
“It’s just me being more aggressive and attacking the rim a lot,” Shuler said. “It opens up gaps for Breein and takes pressure off of him too. That is really what my focus is. I know I can get my shot off. I just want to get to the rim.”
K.J. Buffen added 14 points and snared nine rebounds in a performance that Kermit Davis called the best of Buffen’s young career.
“It was good,” Davis said. “He got some offensive rebounds at critical times. We ran some sets for him and he finished around the goal. I just thought he, Khadim (Sy) and Blake (Hinson) all attacked. But I was really proud of K.J.”
The sophomore played 38 minutes and has done a better job of staying out of foul trouble lately, something that plagued him for a good portion of this season and forced him to sit for long stretches, to the detriment of the team.
As good as Tyree was offensively, his greatest value came on the other end. He held Florida guard Andrew Nembhard to five points on 2-9 shooting. Tyree welcomed the challenge of defending the Gators’ talented guard and was up to the task. Nembhard isn’t Florida’s leading scorer. That title belongs to Kerry Blackshear. But Nembhard gets others involved and is the straw that stirs the proverbial drink on the offensive end.
This was a quality win for Ole Miss and this group is beginning to play a better brand of basketball. Davis challenged his team this week to look forward, to focus on what is ahead rather than agonize over its previous defeats. The team’s goal is to win every game in the month of February and is off to a good start with its first 2-0 week of the SEC season.
“We didn’t look like or feel like a one-and-whatever team,” Davis said. “But we were one. You have to come in our gym every day and come in our locker room and see how we go about our business. I get a feel for our team I practice. We have totally shifted to trying to win the month of February. I think our guys have bought into that.”
The Rebels close out a three-game homestead on Tuesday with a Mississippi State team that is currently playing as well as anyone in the SEC, led by SEC Player of the Year candidate with Reggie Perry.
Tipoff on Tuesday is slated for 6 P.M.
Mississippi State Gets Back on Track with 80-70 Win Over Vanderbilt
- Story by SportsTalk Mississippi MSU Beat Reporter Brian Hadad
Reggie Perry and Nick Weatherspoon have big nights as State derails the Commodores
Mississippi State knows its tournament fate is likely sealed if the Bulldogs continue to win the games they are favored in. It might have been a little tougher than Ben Howland and his team would have liked, but the Bulldogs were able to hold off a tough Vanderbilt squad and grab an 80-70 win over the Commodores at the Humphrey Coliseum. State rode to victory behind 25 points from Reggie Perry and a season high 21 from Nick Weatherspoon, as those two combined for 44 points, 17 rebounds, and 9 assists. MSU improves to 15-8, 6-4 in the SEC, and most importantly, did not suffer a Quadrant 3 loss that would have been a big mark on their postseason resume.
DOUBLE-DOUBLE AGAIN AGAIN
Regggggggiiieee Perrrrrrrry for 3️⃣! pic.twitter.com/tOZbbE0gso
— Mississippi State MBK (@HailStateMBK) February 9, 2020
Reggie Perry racking up a double-double is certainly not news, as the Bulldog sophomore tallied his 13th such game of the season, but tonight might have been his best stat line of the year. On top of 25 points and 11 rebounds, Perry racked up 6 assists and 4 blocked shots, imposing his will on Vanderbilt on both ends of the floor. Vandy coach Jerry Stackhouse referred to Perry as the likely SEC Player of the Year, and State’s leading man showed mental toughness in bouncing back from sub-par midweek showing against Kentucky.
WEATHERSPOON WEATHERS THE STORM
— Mississippi State MBK (@HailStateMBK) February 9, 2020
Nick Weatherspoon’s first half was certainly nothing to write home about, with only 4 points on the board. Weatherspoon led State’s charge from 4 down to 11 up in the opening minutes of the second half, finishing the night with a season-high 21 points on 8-9 shooting. Weatherspoon’s resurgence has been a big part of State’s winning 6 of their last 7 SEC games, and on a night where Robert Woodard and DJ Stewart struggled to find their shot, it was Weatherspoon who took the team on his back offensively.
🗣 PACK 🗣 THE 🗣 PAVILION
Make plans to be in Oxford on Tuesday night!
— Ole Miss Men’s Basketball (@OleMissMBB) February 9, 2020
The most heated rivalry in the SEC takes to the hardwood on Tuesday, as MSU travels to Oxford for a match with Ole Miss. The Rebels are suddenly resurgent, getting back to back home wins this week. Tipoff is set for 6 PM on ESPNU.