McCready: 10 observations from Oklahoma 95, Ole Miss 72
COLUMBIA, South Carolina — Ole Miss’ season ended here Friday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament with a 95-72 loss to Oklahoma.
The Sooners (20-13) advanced to Sunday’s third round, where they will face the winner of Friday’s game between Gardner-Webb and Virginia. Ole Miss finished its season with a 20-13 mark.
Here are 10 observations from Friday’s loss:
From the jump, Ole Miss didn’t appear ready. Kermit Davis had to burn a timeout 1:20 into the game, telling his team, “We’re not going to play that way,” and imploring his players to guard. Oklahoma fed off that passivity, simply lighting up the Rebels early, getting open looks and easy shots in the paint or at the rim.
1. This was a tremendous season for Ole Miss; there’s no questioning that. There’s literally nothing negative to take away from it. However, the last few weeks were not Ole Miss’ best basketball. There were warning signs down the stretch. Ole Miss was flat at Arkansas, struggled for much of a win at Missouri and had an awful performance in the second half of a Southeastern Conference Tournament loss versus Alabama last week in Nashville. Maybe a thin team got tired. Maybe the pressure was too much as the stakes got higher. Regardless, it’s undebatable that Ole Miss faded in the waning weeks of the season. Some thought the extra rest might lead to a sharper, more energetic team Friday. That simply didn’t happen.
2. Davis has said repeatedly in recent weeks that his program is nowhere close to where he wants to get it. That was obvious on Friday, as Davis and his coaching staff were coaching effort and body language in an NCAA Tournament game. Repeatedly in the first half Friday, Davis begged Breein Tyree for more effort on defense. KJ Buffen’s body language drew their ire. Davis searched for any spark, going to Luis Rodriguez and D.C. Davis at times in the first half. Nothing really worked.
3. Ole Miss committed nine turnovers in the first half Friday. Oklahoma, meanwhile, was an efficient offensive machine, turning the ball over just once in the first 20 minutes. At the risk of being repetitive, it was another product of Ole Miss’ lackadaisical approach on defense. Oklahoma just 57.6 percent from the floor in the first half, including a 4-for-6 performance from the 3-point line, in the first half. The Sooners, I should mention, led by 17 at halftime and led by as much as 22 in the first half. That’s where the game was decided — right out of the gate.
4. Ole Miss came out of the halftime break smoking. That’s been a problem in recent weeks. However, the hole was too deep, and Oklahoma kept making shots, preventing Ole Miss from making a real dent.
5. The Rebels’ lack of depth was glaringly apparent Friday. With foul trouble building from the beginning, Davis ran out of options. At one point, with about 15 minutes left in the game, Davis turned to his bench to make a substitution. A few seconds later, he turned back to the court. There was no one to go to.
6. Bruce Stevens is simply not a smart player on the defensive end. He picked up his third foul with 7:07 left in the first half. Two of the fouls were just dumb. There’s no other way to describe them. One came diving at an Oklahoma player after a Blake Hinson turnover. Another came on a blatant reach. Then he picked up his fourth foul in less than 20 seconds in the second half. Frankly, he looked absent from the jump. Oklahoma, a team devoid of real size inside, should have been an advantageous matchup for Stevens. He essentially didn’t show up. It was a fitting end to his Ole Miss career. He came to Oxford with fanfare and while he occasionally showed flashes of being an impactful player, he never lived up to his potential.
7. Terence Davis’ Ole Miss career came to an end Friday. He scored 17 points and grabbed five rebounds in his finale. It didn’t end the way he wanted, but everyone around the program, including those of who covered his career, are glad he made a tournament appearance, however brief. He’s been a stand-up guy to cover.
8. Tyree appeared to be fighting back tears in the final minutes Friday. The first-team All-SEC guard had a superb season, but he didn’t play well down the stretch. It’s my opinion Tyree got tired and banged up over a long season. Ole Miss is going to have to invade the grad transfer market or the junior college circuit for another guard or two for next season. It’s my opinion Tyree would be more effective playing fewer minutes, allowing him to lock in on the defensive end and have a little more life in his legs late in games.
9. Devontae Shuler had a solid game in his hometown. The sophomore from nearby Irmo finished with 13 points and three assists in more than 34 minutes of action. I look for his game to jump to the next level next season, though I think he, like Tyree, would benefit from playing fewer minutes. It’s worth remembering this was Shuler’s first year at any level as a point guard and he played part of the season with an injured foot. Frankly, I expect him to be an All-SEC caliber point guard in 2019-20.
10. If Ole Miss is to return to the NCAA Tournament next season, the Rebels are going to have to do some serious roster reconstruction. I expect a lot of turnover. There are dead spots on the roster right now, and look for the Rebels to address that moving forward. I expect an aggressive attack on the junior college and graduate transfer markets in the coming weeks. The SEC is going to be stacked again next season, and Ole Miss needs more weapons in its arsenal.