Oxford:

Mississippi State came into the game with Ole Miss with something to prove, as the Bulldogs earned a hard-fought 81-75 road win. The Pavillon was rocking with fans from the floor all the way up to the rafters, it was loud and an overall amazing basketball environment as the battle for the Magnolia state made a pit stop in Oxford.

This game between the Rebels and the Bulldogs lived up to the hype going down to the closing seconds of the game before a winner of this heated rivalry would come out on top. Both teams played a pretty even floor game, with the only difference being on the glass where the Bulldogs outrebounded the Rebels by 12 ( 40-28). Mississippi State dominated Ole Miss on the glass and that proved to be the difference maker in the 81-75 victory for the Bulldogs.

Ole Miss has now lost four straight games after the loss on Saturday, Ole Miss faces a very shaky path as we reach the halfway point in the season. Ole Miss faces one of two paths as the Rebels try to find their identity down the stretch. The first option for the Rebels is to get it together and find that swagger that Ole Miss started the season with and the same swagger that earned the Rebels a top 25 ranking. The second option for Ole Miss would be to continue on this path and completely miss out on the NCAA Tournament after such a successful first part of the season. Luckily for the Rebels, the next two games are with bottom feeder teams within the SEC. First Ole Miss will return home on Wednesday to host the Aggies from Texas A&M, then the Rebels will go on the road to Athens to face the Georiga Bulldogs. These two games are must-wins for Ole Miss and the success of this season.

Here’s what Head Coach Kermit Davis had to say about the loss-

“Give Mississippi State a lot of credit. They came into a great environment. Hats off to our fans and students. They had more toughness than us from the start. I had to call timeouts early and coach effort in a rivalry game in front of a sold-out arena and that’s inexcusable. We had a chance to win the game. They out-toughed us, 50/50 balls 19-8 them. We couldn’t keep them off the offensive boards, which is pretty obvious to the fans and you guys who are covering the game. That’s what it was in a great environment. Reggie Perry, the freshman, was a man among boys on the front line. Both of our centers, Bruce (Stevens) and Dom (Olejniczak) played 40 minutes combined, no defensive rebounds. Blake Hinson not rebounding the ball. They made a lot of good plays, so give Mississippi State a lot of credit.”

Mississippi State improves to 16-5, and 4-4 in SEC play with the win over Ole Miss. The Bulldogs will return back to Starkville with a series of home games, starting Wednesday night when LSU pays a visit, then on Saturday when Kentucky comes to the Hump.

Here’s what Head Coach Ben Howland had to say about the win-

“Obviously that was a huge win for us today versus a very good team. This is our best win of the year because it is against a team that is 32 in the NET rankings on their floor. We were about the same when they beat us at our place. This was really important for us as we are going into this homestand that is a murderer’s row coming up next week starting on Wednesday. I thought we got out to a great start defensively. You knew they were going to make runs, which they did. We hung in there to finish strong and only be down four at the half. We came out and did a good job to start the second half. They were up seven, I think 48-41, and I was just so proud of our guys and the way that we kept our composure and the way that we kept our mental toughness. This was a phenomenal atmosphere here today. Great crowd, as loud as it gets. They have a very good team. Breein Tyree, in particular, is just an amazing guy. I don’t know what it is, but I will be glad when he is gone. It is a whole new level every time we see that kid. I was really excited obviously about Reggie Perry’s play today. I thought Reggie was phenomenal. This is the type of effort I hope to see every day in terms of productivity. He played a career-high in minutes, 34. Those two three-pointers, you know he is shooting 22 percent I believe on the season coming in, but he is working at it. They were both really open, really good looks, and he had great belief, focus, and confidence. One was huge, I think it put us up 62-60. It was a big shot. Q (Quinndary Weatherspoon) was absolutely fantastic. The last eight minutes of the game he really took over and did a lot of great things off the dribble, and we had him in a ball screen situation. Lamar (Peters) played today with a sprained wrist that he hurt at the end of the Alabama game. He didn’t shoot once in practice from three on Thursday and Friday. Today was the first time that he shot threes, right before the game, and he made his first three. I thought Tyson (Carter), Nick (Weatherspoon), and Abdul Ado’s play down the stretch were really huge. Abdul, when we were switching everything with a double possession lead, he did a great job.”

Ole Miss and Mississippi State split the season series and the only hope for a tie-breaker would have to come in Nashville in the SEC Tournament. These two games will forever go down in Mississippi basketball folklore.