OXFORD — Ole Miss men’s basketball nearly erased a 22-point first-half deficit Wednesday night against UCF before the Knights took control late, taking down the Rebels 72-61 at SJB Pavilion. Here are three takeaways from Ole Miss’ (7-3) loss.
The Rebels battled back from an ice-cold start
UCF (8-2) scored the first 21 points of the game, as Ole Miss shot 0 of 9 from the field and committed five turnovers. The Rebels didn’t score their first points of the game until the 12:07 mark via a 3-pointer from junior guard Matt Murrell, who scored the first eight points of the game for Ole Miss. The Rebels finished the first half on an 11-0 run, though, to make it a 10-point game at halftime. Murrell scored half of Ole Miss’ points in the first period and led the Rebels with 21 points in a whopping 39 minutes of action.
After their slow start, the Rebels finished the half making 10 of 15 shots. Ole Miss cut the deficit to six points less than three minutes into the second half on a 3-pointer from freshman guard Amaree Abram and then down to four with just under 10 minutes remaining in regulation.
It was the second time in three games the Rebels found themselves in a massive early hole.
“We just talked about it to our team, sure. The margin’s there. It’s poor. I take full responsibility for it,” Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis said. “We’ve got to get off to better starts.”
Malique Ewin looks like a good one
Ewin’s bucket nearly eight minutes into the second period made it a five-point game, part of the freshman’s career night. The 6-foot-10 forward finished with a career-high 10 points on a perfect 4 of 4 from the field. He played 18 minutes, 11 more than his previous high.
“We’re trying guys. (Ewin’s) been playing a lot better in practice. He had some good moments in the game. The guys we started were having trouble rebounding the ball, so that’s when we went to Josh (Mballa) and Malique,” Davis said. “I thought they rebounded it a little bit better … We were trying different guys and he gave us a great spark to end the half.”
The Rebels dug themselves into too big a hole, despite an inspired comeback effort
Free throws from Murrell with 9:51 to play cut the Rebels’ deficit down to four. A 13-2 run from the Knights ensued, however, giving UCF space to breathe.
“We came back, and then it’s kind of like we went back to what happened in the first half, I felt like,” Mballa, who scored 18 points, said. ” … They got easy buckets, offensive boards. Really, we didn’t control our defensive rebound. They got second-chance points, and that’s really what got them back a little bit over the top after we came back.”
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