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Stiff Defense Lifts Ole Miss Past Aggies

OXFORD, Miss. – For the second straight game, the Ole Miss men’s basketball team proved to be too much to handle on the defensive end. Between the 1-3-1 zone and lockdown man-to-man, the Rebels (8-6, 3-4 SEC) used their defense to create separation and come away with another conference victory, 61-50, over the Texas A&M Aggies at The Pavilion Saturday afternoon.

“I thought we ended our first half on a good note,” Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis said. “Our 1-3-1 was fantastic and we created good offense with our good defense. Good team win.”

The win wrapped up a perfect week of basketball for the Rebels. After holding rival Mississippi State to only 46 points en route to a road victory, Ole Miss kept SEC opponents to 50 points or less in consecutive games for the first time since 1982. It was only fitting with the Rebels donning throwback uniforms, a nod to the 2001 team that advanced to the Sweet 16.

Ole Miss shot 44 percent on the offensive end (19 of 43) and forced 18 turnovers defensively with a staggering 25 points coming off of them. Jarkel Joiner had his second 20-point outing of the season with a team-high 21 points on 7 of 11 shooting to go along with seven rebounds, another team best.

“I’d like to thank my coaches and teammates for having confidence in me,” Joiner said. “The game is slowing down for me, so I’m finding my spots.”

Devontae Shuler eclipsed double-digit scoring numbers for the fourth consecutive game with 17 points, three baskets coming beyond the arc, and four assists. Romello White added nine points to go along with his three blocks, adding to the defensive field day his team put together  Saturday afternoon.

After both teams started 0 for 3 from the floor, Joiner broke the ice with a jumper just over two minutes into the game. Joiner followed that up with the game’s first three-pointer for five early points without Texas A&M scoring. Defensively, Ole Miss locked down from the jump, forcing the Aggies to start 0 of 7 from the floor and not allowing a single field goal until the 13:51 mark in the first half.

Both teams traded blows the remainder of the first half with the Aggies having a slim lead the majority of the way. The Rebels proceeded to apply half court pressure and forced turnovers to get back in front with 1:04 left to go in the half. They used a 8-0 run to head into the locker room up 31-28.

Despite the slow start, Ole Miss shot 48 percent from the floor in the opening half and used six steals to force nine turnovers. Joiner led the Rebels with nine points, while Matthew Murrell and KJ Buffen added six points apiece.

That momentum carried into the second half with a 6-0 Rebel run, the first four points coming from the free throw line. Shuler’s back-to-back threes opened up a 13-point Ole Miss lead, 43-30, forcing the Aggies to call timeout with 13:08 left in the game.

Texas A&M fought back with five straight points before another 6-0 Ole Miss run. Joiner’s reverse layup forced the Aggies to take another timeout with 9:40 remaining and the Rebels up 49-35. Texas A&M was left without a field goal for more than five minutes, and the Ole Miss lead escalated to as much as 18. The defensive pressure continued, leading to another double-digit victory.

Following another Saturday at home, the Rebels spend a week on the road with games at Arkansas (Jan. 27) and at Georgia (Jan. 30). Starting with the Razorbacks, tipoff from Bud Walton Arena is slated for 7:30 p.m. CT on SEC Network.

For the latest news and updates regarding Ole Miss Men’s Basketball, follow the Rebels on Twitter at @OleMissMBB, on Facebook at Ole Miss Men’s Basketball and on Instagram at olemissmbb.

TIP-INS

  • Limiting the Aggies to 50 points, Ole Miss gave up 50 points or less in back-to-back SEC games for the first time since 1982.
  • It marked the fourth time this season that the Rebels have kept an opponent to 50 points or less; the last time that happened was the 2011-12 season.
  • The Rebels have won all eight games this season by double digits.
  • Ole Miss improved to 4-1 all-time against Texas A&M in Oxford.
  • Ole Miss forced at least 15 turnovers for the 12th time this season; the Rebels turned 18 Texas A&M turnovers into 25 points.
  • The backcourt duo of Jarkel Joiner and Devontae Shuler scored 38 of the team’s 61 points.
  • Joiner scored a game-high 21 points, his second 20-point game as a Rebel; Joiner’s team-high seven rebounds were also his best in an Ole Miss uniform.
  • Robert Allen recorded a team-high three steals after entering the contest with four steals on the season.