Ole Miss falls to Vanderbilt, tournament hopes in trouble
NASHVILLE, Tn. - Devontae Shuler and Romello White combined for 42 points while each shooting over 50 percent from the floor, but the Vanderbilt Commodores found success from their bench and from long range as they upset the Ole Miss 75-70 in Memorial Gymnasium Saturday afternoon.
The Rebels (13-10, 8-8 SEC) shot 44 percent (25 of 57) from the floor with Shuler leading the way with 25 points (10 of 20) followed by White’s 17 points (6 of 10) to go along with eight rebounds.
Despite Ole Miss having the edge on the glass (33-30) and in the paint (30 of 26) in large part to the starting five, the Commodores used their depth by outscoring the Rebel bench 39-4. Trey Thomas, Isaac McBride and DJ Harvey combined for 37 points off the bench, including nine three-pointers as each reached double figures, making the difference in the Music City.
Both teams combined scoring on five of the first seven possessions as Vanderbilt held an early 9-6 advantage. The Rebels scored five straight points to retake the lead briefly before Shuler got it back on a layup plus a foul with 11:25 left in the half, giving Ole Miss a 14-12 edge.
Five straight Vanderbilt points forced head coach Kermit Davis to call timeout with 10:27 on the clock. Ole Miss proceeded to go on an 9-1 run to take their largest lead of the afternoon following a free throw by Luis Rodriguez to make it a five-point game. Shuler’s layup gave Ole Miss a 27-20 lead with 4:33 left in the half before the Commodores fought back with a 9-0 run and taking advantage of turnovers.
A free throw by KJ Buffen made it a 34-32 halftime score in Vanderbilt’s favor. The Rebels shot 48 percent (12 of 25) from the floor as did Vanderbilt (13 of 27) in the first half. Ole Miss found the majority of their offensive production come from the paint (20 points) and the charity stripe (8 of 12) with Shuler leading the way with 15 points. White also added nine points and three boards at the break.
Vanderbilt had over half of their points come from the bench, including Harvey, who had 10 points to lead Vanderbilt. Buffen tied the game at 36 coming out of the locker room with a corner three, Ole Miss’ first of the afternoon. Rodriguez followed that up with a triple of his own to take his team’s first lead of the second half. Ole Miss proceeded to go scoreless for over two minutes as they trailed 41-39 with 15:04 left in the half. The Commodores built a 48-41 lead before Joiner and Shuler willed Ole Miss back to a deadlock with a 7-0 run, tying the game at 48-48 with 11:49 left to play.
Three-pointers continued to fall for Vanderbilt as Thomas’ fourth triple gave the Commodores their largest lead of the game, 60-51, with 7:29 remaining. In a blink of an eye, Ole Miss came within five with just over five minutes left to play. Technical fouls were issued to Evans and White as Vanderbilt led 65-59 following free throws on both sides with 5:07 left to go. Wright’s jump shot gave the Commodores an eight-point lead going into the final media timeout.
Jarkel Joiner cut the lead down to five with just over a minute left, but a charge foul called on Rodriguez gave Vanderbilt the ball back with 45 seconds left. Following a missed free throw, Shuler knocked down a clutch three-pointer to make it a 72-70 Rebel deficit with under 30 seconds left.
Vanderbilt split free throws on the other end, but a pair of three-point attempts could not fall for Ole Miss. The Rebels were forced to foul again, and two more Vanderbilt free throws made it a two-possession game.
After a week on the road, the Rebels return home to finish up conference play in The Pavilion. First, Kentucky makes the trip to Oxford (March 2), the only SEC team Ole Miss has yet to face this season. Tipoff is slated for 8 p.m. CT. Then, the Rebels host Vanderbilt (March 6) before heading to Nashville for the conference tournament.
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