February 11, 2020 9:10:54 PM
Garrick Hodge - [email protected]
OXFORD -- It's hard to fathom considering the final score, but Mississippi State once had a 13-point lead against Ole Miss on Tuesday.
Then the Bulldogs completely collapsed.
To borrow a phrase from MSU women's basketball coach Vic Schaefer, the Bulldogs were taken to the woodshed in the second half, getting outscored 50-24 en route to a 83-58 loss at The Pavilion in Oxford.
The 25-point defeat marks the largest margin the Bulldogs have lost by this season.
"It's really frustrating, obviously," MSU coach Ben Howland said. "You lose to your arch rival and lose that bad, it really stinks. That pain you deal with has to drive you to come back and come together for the remainder of the season. We have to bounce back. We can't let this loss beat us twice."
In the days leading up to the matchup, Howland was wary of the 1-3-1 zone Ole Miss and Kermit Davis deploy to cause opponents into confusion. Whatever scouting ahead of time the Bulldogs did for that defensive look, it didn't pay off.
The Rebels (13-11, 4-7 SEC) forced MSU (15-9, 6-5) to pass the ball around the perimeter to no avail, draining the shot clock and often resulting in awkward, off-balance shots time and time again.
"We kept a really good offensive team off balance," Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis said. "It's a really good win for the Rebels."
Ball security was nowhere to be found after MSU committed 17 turnovers against the Rebels, leading to 27 points on the other end.
"The zone gave us problems," MSU forward Robert Woodard II said. "It slowed us down on offense, and we wasted a lot of time with the shot clock. I think it did what it was supposed to do tonight."
Of course, it didn't help that reigning all-SEC first-team guard Breein Tyree somehow found a way to take his game to another level. The Ole Miss guard outscored the Bulldogs by three all by himself in the second half en route to a career-high 40 points.
"I was being really aggressive," Tyree said. "Credit to my teammates getting me open."
Meanwhile, Nick Weatherspoon couldn't buy a bucket and had his worst collegiate game of his career, ending up with a ghastly negative-36 plus-minus rating. The junior finished with 0 points (0 of 5 from the floor) and six turnovers.
His backup point guard, Tyson Carter, didn't fare much better, turning the ball over four times and scoring three points in the defeat. After the game, Howland admitted he considered giving freshman Iverson Molinar minutes at the point considering his two upperclassmen were struggling but decided against it.
"It's hard to go against my veterans," Howland said.
Early in the first half, MSU raced out to a 26-13 lead and held Ole Miss scoreless for nearly six minutes. But the Rebels closed the half on a 15-3 run and only trailed by a point, 34-33. Ironically, it was the first time MSU entered halftime with the lead in its last five games.
Ole Miss flustered the Bulldogs from the start after the break, eventually building an 11-point lead with 9:10 remaining and forcing Howland to burn through all of his timeouts.
The rest of the contest left MSU wishing it could figuratively burn the tape after watching Tyree nail jump shot after jump shot.
"There's really nothing we can do about it," MSU guard D.J. Stewart said of the loss. "All we can do is get better as a team."
In a losing effort, MSU forward Reggie Perry finished with 24 points and eight rebounds. Stewart contributed 16 points, while Woodard II scored 12. The Bulldogs shot 36.7 percent from the floor as a team and 2 of 16 from beyond the arc. Khadim Sy poured in 18 points for Ole Miss, while Devontae Shuler pitched in 16. The Rebels shot 48.3 percent from the field and converted 8 of 20 3-pointers.
Despite admitting walking into a frustrated locker room after the contest, Howland remains optimistic about the teams NCAA tournament chances if the right corrections are made.
"There's a lot of basketball left; we can still get there," Howland said.
MSU is back in action at noon Saturday on the road against Arkansas.