OXFORD, Miss. – A tough stretch on the defensive end hurt Mississippi State’s chances in its rivalry game with Ole Miss Saturday afternoon.
The homestanding Rebels built a double-digit lead late in the first half and made it stand up for an 82-63 Southeastern Conference men’s basketball win at the Tad Smith Coliseum.
With the victory, Ole Miss improved to 14-5 overall and 5-1 in league play, while MSU fell to 13-6 and 3-3. The two arch-rivals split the regular season series for a second straight year.
“Our guys didn’t come out and execute on the defensive end and that is very disappointing,” MSU head coach Rick Ray said. “We have our challenges on the offensive end but that does not impact how we should be playing on the defensive end.”
The Bulldogs had another struggle out the gate, falling down 8-2 quickly. Ole Miss stretched the lead to 15-7 on a jumper by Aaron Jones.
Ole Miss built a double digit lead before Roquez Johson had the deficit back to nine at 34-25 on a layup for MSU. The Bulldogs appeared ready to make a push but failed to convert on the front end of three different one-plus-one attempts to end the half.
Ole Miss led 38-27 at the intermission.
“We had some unbelievable opportunities at the rim but did not finish,” Ray said. “The inability hit free throws continues to hurt us. I didn’t like our fight or energy, especially consider it was against Ole Miss. We have now lost three road games (in league play) and not been competitive. We have to find a way to play better on the road.
“We have to learn how to be competitive away from home.”
MSU turned the ball over on three of four possessions to start the second half and the lead quickly sprinted to 21 thank to a 15-5 run. Ray played many reserves in the second half, and strong play by Tevin Moore and De’Runya Wilson sparked an 8-0 run as the Bulldogs made one last rally.
The Bulldogs closed within 12 but got no closer.
“Some of the new guys played with a lot of spark and determination,” Ray said. “Even though they didn’t do some things, were making mistakes through effort. We need to see more of that.”
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 24 of 59 shots from the field (40.7 percent), 9 of 20 shots from 3-point range (45.0 percent) and 6 of 14 shots from the foul line (42.9 percent). The Rebels hit 29 of 63 shots from the field (46.0 percent), 7 of 21 shots from 3-point range (33.3 percent) and 17 of 20 shots from the foul line (85.0 percent).
Ole Miss held a 43-32 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 18 assists and 11 turnovers, while the Rebels had 12 assists and nine turnovers.
Returning to the lineup after missing two games for injury, IJ Ready led MSU with 13 points. Johnson also had 13 points.
Ole Miss received 19 points from Marshall Henderson and Jarvis Summers. LaDarius White added 11 points. Sebastian Saiz had a game-high 11 rebounds.
MSU hosts Florida at 6 p.m. Thursday. The contest will be televised nationally by ESPN2 from Humphrey Coliseum.