COLUMBIA, Mo. (WLBT) - A steal and a finger roll by Devontae Shuler broke a 66-66 tie with 1:28 to go, and the sophomore helped lead the Ole Miss men’s basketball team to a comeback victory at Missouri Saturday afternoon. The Rebels (20-11, 10-8 SEC) rallied from a 10-point deficit in the second half to earn their 20th victory of the season and secured a winning conference record heading into next week’s SEC Tournament.
Ole Miss was led by elite guard play from Shuler and Breein Tyree, who accounted for 39 of the Rebels’ 73 points. Tyree poured in a game-high 21 points, his 17th game with 20 or more this season, going three of four from beyond the arc all while playing a team-high 38 minutes. Shuler added 18 points of his own on 7 of 9 shooting, matching Tyree’s mark of three made from long range.
The Rebels showed why they lead the conference in free throw percentage, going 19 of 21 at the line (90.5 percent). The defense showed up late in crunch time, as Ole Miss held Missouri without a field goal for the last three plus minutes.
The Tigers (14-16, 5-13 SEC) were led by freshman Xavier Pinson who had a career-high 20 points on 8 of 12 shooting. Missouri had three other double-figure scorers in Torrence Watson (14 points), Jordan Giest (12 points, and Jeremiah Tilmon (11 points).
While five different Rebels scored in the first six minutes, Ole Miss jumped out to an early lead thanks to its defense. The Rebels held Missouri without a bucket for seven minutes, only allowing a pair of free throws. Behind seven early points from Tyree, Ole Miss held a 17-10 advantage midway through the first half.
Missouri used a pair of big runs to grab the game’s momentum. A 14-2 run flipped a seven-point Ole Miss lead into a five-point deficit. After the Rebels got within three, the Tigers went on an 8-0 run to bump their cushion to double digits. Shuler drilled a three to stop the bleeding, but Ole Miss went into the locker room down 34-26.
The Tigers came out and pushed the difference back to double digits before the Rebels made their comeback to tie the game. With his team trailing 43-33, head coach Kermit Davis called timeout to regroup the Rebels. The call paid off as a 13-3 run over 4:15 tied the game. Bruce Stevens, Shuler and Tyree all hit threes during the stretch. The NBA-range long ball by the Rebels’ leading scorer tied the game at 46-46 with 12:19 left in the game, forcing a Missouri timeout.
Missouri scored six straight points coming out of the timeout. The Tigers remained in front, but not for long. KJ Buffen hit a corner three followed by an old-fashioned three-point play that sliced the margin to two. Tyree drained a three from the wing, and just like that, Ole Miss took the lead 60-59. On the next possession, Shuler stole the ball before delivering a thunderous dunk to increase the lead to three.
A three-point cushion turned into a three-point deficit before Terence Davis threw the hammer down and drew the foul. Going to the line, the senior completed the three-point play to tie the game at 66-66 with 2:02 to go. On the next possession, Shuler came up with another steal and raced down the floor. The sophomore’s sweet finger roll put Ole Miss back in front. The Rebels got another stop, and with the shot clock winding down, Shuler hit a jumper from the elbow to make it 70-66 with 52 seconds left.
Ole Miss made three of four free throws down the stretch, forcing a pair of misses on the defensive end, to wrap up a big road victory prior to the conference tournament.
Up next, the Rebels head to Nashville for the SEC Tournament. Ole Miss is already guaranteed to play in a second-round game on Thursday, March 14th.
· Improving to 10-8 in SEC play, Ole Miss earned a winning conference record for the fifth time in the last seven years.
· Ole Miss finishes with a winning road record (5-4) in conference play for the first time since 2014-15 (6-3), the last time it made the NCAA Tournament.
· The Rebels secured their 10th 20-win season throughout the past 13 years.
· Ole Miss beat Missouri for the 11th time in the last 12 matchups, taking a 12-2 lead in the all-time series.
· Ole Miss earned its third home-and-home sweep of the season (Auburn, Georgia).
· Kermit Davis became only the third coach in school history to win 20 games in his first season as head coach, joining Andy Kennedy and Rod Barnes.
· Devontae Shuler scored 18, the highest-scoring game of his career in SEC play.
· Breein Tyree produced his 17th 20-point game of the season with a game-high 21 points.
· Trailing by eight at the half, Ole Miss overcame a halftime deficit of more than five points on the road for the first time since rally down five at Vanderbilt two years ago (Feb. 4, 2017).
· The Rebels trailed by as many as 10 in the second half before the comeback victory.