Ole Miss faced, quite literally, their biggest challenge of the season at Texas in the SEC/Big-12 challenge. The Rebels entered Saturday 11-9 (4-4 conference) with hopes that a late-season run might land them on the NCAA tournament bubble.
Entering the contest, Ole Miss had struggled all season to find production in the post. Bruce Stevens had picked it up of late, but Ole Miss had yet to face competition as stiff as Texas, at least in the post.
Texas, to the detriment of Ole Miss, boasted arguably the nation’s best shot blocker in Mohamed Bamba. Listed at 6-foot-11-inches – color me skeptical on that one – with a 7-foot-9-inch wingspan, Bamba entered the game second in the country in blocks per game (4.42 bpg), but is easily the most menacing rim protector in all of college basketball.
Bamba, who was the best player on the court, lived up to the hype. Bamba racked up 25 points, 15 rebounds (3 offensive), 4 blocks and even made a three. He was Ole Miss’ worst nightmare, much like he has been for most everyone this season.
Breaking out of his season-long slump, Dominik Olejniczak kept Ole Miss in the game early. Entering Saturday, Dom was averaging just over 3 points/game, but he finished with 16, of which 14 came in the first half.
However, the other post players for Ole Miss didn’t even pretend to be productive. Justas Furmanavacius, Marcanvis Hymon and Bruce Stevens combined to shoot just 3-for-11 from the field, tallying 11 points – with 5 of the 11 came by way of the charity stripe.
However, struggling with production from posts is nothing new to Ole Miss: Ole Miss has lived and died by the play of their guards. Ole Miss received next to nothing from their usual rotation of 5 guards, with the exception of Deandre Burnett.
Terence Davis had 7 points on 3-of-11 (1-5 from three) shooting, Breein Tyree had just 5 points on 2-of-4 (1-3) shooting, Devontae Shuler had 5 points on 2-of-7 (1-2) shooting and Markel Crawford had six points on 2-of-6 (2-4) shooting. The quarter also accounted for a measly 2 assists, both courtesy of Markel Crawford.
Deandre Burnett, however, had 21 points on 6-of-12 (3-7) shooting with one assist.
Ole Miss also lost the defensive battle as they only collected two steals, compared to six by Texas. Texas guards were the culprit for 4 steals, where as Devontae Shuler was the only Ole Miss guard to come up with a steal.
Ole Miss was outplayed on the post and on the perimeter by Texas, which resulted in a double-digit loss. 2017/18 has been a season of road woes for Ole Miss (Ole Miss is 0-6 on the road), and Saturday was par for the course. Four of Ole Miss 6 road losses have been by double-digits. Both non-conference road losses have been double-digit beatings.
Ole Miss is now 11-10 (4-4 conference) on the season, and, if its NCAA tournament hopes were somehow still on life-support, then the plug has now been pulled.