Stifling Defense, Tyree Fuel Rebels' Rally over MSU
Jan. 6, 2018
By Brian Scott Rippee, OleMissSports.com
The win was the Ole Miss’ eighth over MSU in the past nine meetings of the in-state rivalry, and it also gave head coach Andy Kennedy his 100th SEC victory.
Tyree told reporters on Friday he would like to be more of a factor for Ole Miss on both ends of the floor, and the sophomore guard certainly made good on his word, helping the Rebels gut out a six-point win over Mississippi State.
This game was no work of art for Ole Miss. It shot 21 of 62 from the field, 7 of 28 from three-point range and trailed by as many as 13 points. But that has become the identity of this team. Andy Kennedy calls it "winning ugly," hanging around and giving yourself an opportunity to make winning plays down the stretch. That's what Ole Miss did. That is what Tyree did when he drove through the lane and made contested layup to give the Rebels a 60-56 lead with under a minute left. He did it again two possessions later with 14 seconds left that put the game on ice.
"I just wanted to stay in attack mode," Tyree said. "I saw Deandre (Burnett) doing a good job of getting downhill. I figured I could do the same so I tried to attack the basket, finish at the rim and make plays."
Tyree had 16 points, none bigger than the last four. Burnett led all scorers with 21 points in what was a difficult night for Ole Miss at the offensive end. The first half was a struggle for the Rebels. The team shot 9 of 31 from the field and 3 of 15 from three-point range.
"I didn't think we were taking good shots in the first half," Kennedy said. "In the second half, Mississippi State is really strong defensively. They are long and really pack line you. I thought we were taking what they were giving us and getting good looks. We just couldn't make them."
Mississippi State had a lead as large as 33-20 at one point. Kennedy went to an extended 1-3-1 and saw success in the final minutes of the first half. The Rebels closed that first half on an 8-1 run because of it to trim the margin to 34-28.
"The 1-3-1 changed the game," Kennedy said. "I thought we played with some energy. We forced them to make jump shots which has not been their strength this year."
Mississippi State pushed their lead back out to 11 midway through the second half. Ole Miss went through about a five-minute stretch without a field goal and trailed by nine points with eight minutes to go in the game. The Rebels stayed the course with the 1-3-1 and 3-2 zones, and began to chip away. They forced 14 Bulldog turnovers on the night and only turned it over seven times themselves.
"It's hard to play with energy when you aren't making shots," Kennedy said. "We are really struggling offensively. I thought it was a sign of maturity out of our guys to continue to get stops and battle when you're having empty possession after empty possession."
The guards began to do a better job of getting to the rim. Ole Miss made four of its final five field goals largely because of its ability to get to the basket.
"We pride ourselves on locking up defensively," Tyree said. "When shots don't fall, we are just going to pick it up defensively and try to get into transition. We stayed energetic, stayed positive and pulled out a big win."
The Rebels cut it to seven with seven minutes left. A Tyree triple cut it to three points. He tied the game on a lay-up two minutes later and gave the Rebels a 54-53 with a free throw with 4:45 left in the game. Ole Miss continued to play well defensively. The Bulldogs scored five points over the final seven minutes of the ball game. Tyree's two contested lay-ups sealed it in the final minute.
"It was a huge confidence boost seeing those shots go in," Tyree said. "I will be feeling much better going into this next game at Auburn."
Tyree said he sees himself becoming more of a vocal leader on a team that needs one. Kennedy agreed and Tyree certainly showed signs of it in this game.
"He has a leadership quality to him," Kennedy said. "I need his voice on that court."
Bruce Stevens had 10 points and four rebounds including a big basket and a defensive rebound in the final minute.
The Rebels won a game despite shooting 34 percent from the floor. It survived a 1 of 13 performance from a struggling Terence Davis -- a guy that's carried a bulk of the offensive load at times this year. Ole Miss is beginning to assume the blue-collar identity Kennedy has preached about and have grinded out two SEC wins in their first three attempts.
"Very seldom do you win a college basketball game in the SEC when your leading scorer goes 1 for 13," Kennedy said. "This was a huge moment for us to step up and make some plays."
Ole Miss improved to 9-6 and 2-1 in SEC play. The team returns to action against Auburn on Tuesday. Tipoff is slated for 8 p.m. CT on ESPNU.
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