Cold second half dooms Ole Miss

Cold second half dooms Ole Miss
SOURCE: Ole Miss Athletics (Source: Ole Miss Athletics)

OXFORD, Miss. - The Ole Miss men’s basketball team got double-doubles from KJ Buffen and Devontae Shuleralong with 27 points from Breein Tyree, but it wasn’t enough as the Rebels (9-6, 0-2 SEC) dropped a back-and-forth battle to Arkansas Saturday evening.

A career-high 34 points from Isaiah Joe allowed the Razorbacks (13-2, 2-1 SEC) to rally from a halftime deficit and escape The Pavilion with a 76-72 win. Tyree broke the 20-point plateau against Arkansas for the third straight time, producing his eighth 20-point game of the season.

Buffen and Shuler tallied career highs in rebounds to produce the first double-doubles of their careers. Buffen had 12 points and 10 rebounds, while Shuler added 10 points and a team-high 11 boards. As a team, the Rebels dominated the glass 40-28. Both teams made their free throws, combining for 47 of 53 (88.7 percent) at the line.

Ole Miss set a Pavilion record by making 25 of 26 (96.2 percent), the third-best free throw percentage in school history and the best in 12 years. Besides Joe’s career night, the Rebels kept leading scorer Mason Jones in check. He scored 13 points, seven below his average, on 3 of 12 shooting. However, Jones added team highs in assists (9), rebounds (6) and steals (3). While Ole Miss limited the Razorbacks to just 27 percent (8 of 30) shooting in the first half, the visitors shot 58 percent (15 of 26) in the second half to make their comeback.

After two Khadim Sy free throws, Arkansas went on a 10-0 run to take an early eight-point lead. The Rebels struggled early offensively, making only three of their first 13 shots. However, Tyree provided a spark with eight straight points for Ole Miss. Three consecutive makes brought the Rebels within two. Arkansas split a pair of free throws, but Tyree and Shuler made two apiece to put Ole Miss back up since the early seconds of the game, 22-21, with six minutes remaining in the first half.

The Razorbacks regained the lead, 27-26, but Ole Miss closed the half strong to grab the momentum. Defensively, the Rebels forced Arkansas to missed seven consecutive field goals. On the other end of the floor, a 7-0 run gave Ole Miss a 33-27 advantage at the break.

Blake Hinson drilled a three from the wing before Tyree drove baseline for a thunderous dunk that brought The Pavilion crowd to its feet. Tyree’s 12 first half points paced the Rebels, while the team made 10 of 11 free throws over the first 20 minutes. Grabbing the momentum heading into the locker room, Ole Miss maintained it by coming out strong to start the second half.

The Rebels made five of their first eight shots of the period, extending their lead to double digits. The margin got down to eight, and a four-point play by Joe sliced it in half. However, Tyree countered with an old-fashioned three-point play. A jumper by Hinson followed by Shuler finishing in transition made it 60-51 Ole Miss, forcing Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman to call timeout with eight minutes left.

The Rebels led by eight before Arkansas went on an 8-0 run. Back-to-back threes by Joe and two free throws by Adrio Bailey tied the game at 64-64 with 5:33 remaining. However, the tie didn’t last long as two Tyree free throws and a Buffen putback gave Ole Miss a four-point advantage. Another 8-0 run by the Razorbacks flipped the game into their favor, and the visitors did not surrender the lead for the rest of the contest.

Arkansas made their free throws down the stretch, going a perfect 14 for 14 from the charity stripe in the second half, to claim the narrow victory. With the first conference home game of the season in the books, Ole Miss returns the road for the third time in 10 days (four games).

The Rebels travel south to battle former Ole Miss basketball player and assistant coach Mike White’s Florida Gators. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. CT on ESPN2.

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