The No. 25 Ole Miss men’s basketball team has cruised to a 12-0 record on the season for the first time since 2007-08 dominating Southern Miss 89-72 on Saturday at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi.
A hot start by the Rebels carried throughout the game, leaving the Golden Eagles with limited opportunities to catch up in the neutral site match.
Allen Flanigan recorded the first five points of the game to give Ole Miss a quick lead that the team would never relinquish. Jaylen Murray and Jaemyn Brakefield kept the momentum alive by hitting a pair of threes to give the Rebels a 13-5 lead at the 15:12 mark in the half. Southern Miss opened things up turning the ball over three times in the first six minutes.
The three-ball was falling for the Rebels as the team hit its first four shots from beyond the arc, which catapulted the team to a 23-8 lead with 12:20 left in the half. But the Golden Eagles did not lay down and accept defeat.
Southern Miss closed in on the Rebels with a 9-2 run to cut the deficit to under double-digits near the midway point of the half. Cobie Montgomery was the catalyst early on that put USM within arms reach. The Golden Eagles kept things close up until the last five minutes before the intermission.
Despite losing Murray for the better portion of the last eight minutes of the half due to foul trouble, first-year Ole Miss head coach Chris Beard’s group closed out on a strong 14-6 run, led by Matthew Murrell, to hold a 47-30 lead at halftime. Arizona State transfer Austin Nunez filled in for Murray during the point guard’s hiatus on the court.
“We played well today. The first half is one of our better 20-minute segments at Ole Miss,” Beard said. “I think the main reason is that we had so much respect for Southern Miss. We knew they were gonna compete. They were a team that had the guys’ full attention.”
The second half was a different story for Southern Miss as the Golden Eagles were neck and neck with the Rebels in the final 20 minutes of play, but it ultimately did not affect the game’s outcome.
USM, displaying toughness as a team, made a few runs and cut into Ole Miss’ lead, reducing the deficit to as few as 10 points to try to claw their way back into the match. Victor Hart and Victor Iwuakor gave Southern Miss head coach Jay Ladner everything they had to keep their team in a position to make a comeback.
Nonetheless, the Rebels had an answer for everything that came their way and never had a double-digit advantage eclipsed in the remainder of the game. That was largely due to Murrell and Brakefield’s veteran presence on the court when the pendulum began to swing the other way.
The two were responsible for 10 of the Rebels’ last 12 points in the final five minutes of play. Both teams scored 42 each in the last half of action, giving Ole Miss the 17-point victory when the clock hit 0:00.
Murrell was the leading scorer for Ole Miss with 26 points. Other double-digit scorers for Ole Miss included Murray with 21 points, Brakefield with 15, and Flanigan with 10.
St. John’s transfer Andre Curbelo, in his second game of action for USM this season, had a major impact on the court for the Golden Eagles before fouling out late in the game. The point guard scored 13 points and was a perfect 4/4 from the floor and 1/1 from three, but was most effective in setting things up for his teammates to find open looks.
Former Ole Miss guard turned Southern Miss standout Austin Crowley took a hit to the face late in the first half and was limited in action, only playing 14 minutes during the contest. Ladner didn’t seem concerned about the injury and is confident that the West Point native will be available in coming games.
Next up for USM is its first Sun Belt Conference match — a Saturday afternoon battle at Georgia Southern. That game will begin at 2 p.m. CT. Ole Miss will close out nonconference play with a Sunday afternoon home game against Bryant. That match will begin at 3 p.m. CT.
Both Beard and Ladner expressed interest in playing against one another in Biloxi in future matches.