NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Mississippi Rebels already have matched the lone Southeastern Conference road victory they managed all of last season.
Not a bad way to kick off league play.
Breein Tyree scored a career-high 31 points, and Mississippi opened SEC play by beating Vanderbilt 81-71 Saturday night for the Rebels’ eighth straight victory. The Rebels didn’t win away from Oxford in league play until Feb. 20 at Missouri.
“It’s definitely a big confidence boost,” Tyree said.
Ole Miss now has won four straight in Memorial Gym and seven of the last nine between these teams. First-year coach Kermit Davis picked up where he left off winning his fourth consecutive in a streak he started at Middle Tennessee. Davis said he’s talked since his first day on the job of building toughness to win on the road in SEC play.
“That’s all we talked about,” Davis said. “That was our battle cry, and it was our battle cry at Middle Tennessee.”
The Rebels led 35-32 at halftime and simply outshot Vanderbilt in the second. They hit 57.7 percent (15 of 26) in the second half. Tyree led the way hitting his first six shots and finished 11 of 16 from the floor with a trio of 3-pointers made and knocked down all six of his free throws.
“If I make my first couple shots, I’m going to score a lot,” Tyree said.
Blake Hinson, Terence Davis and Devontae Shuler added 11 points each for Ole Miss (11-2).
Vanderbilt (9-4) snapped a two-game winning streak after finishing its nonconference slate winning four of the last five.
Freshman Simisola Shittu led the Commodores with a career-high 21 points, and Joe Toye added 12.
“We chased them the last four minutes,” Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew said.
In a tight game with 10 ties and 13 lead changes, Vanderbilt had its biggest lead at 53-47 on a 3-point play by Shittu with 14:23 left.
Then the Rebels took over with a 20-7 run. Davis hit a 3 and then stole the ball to set up Shuler for a fast-break layup and a 65-60 lead that matched their largest of the game to that point. Tyree added a pair of free throws for the Rebels’ biggest lead to finish the run.
Ole Miss then put away the game as Davis hit a 3 and Shuler added a layup with 4:01 left for a 79-63 lead.
Vanderbilt didn’t hit a bucket after Aaron Nesmith’s 3 with 3:46 left as the Commodores finished the game hitting only one of their final seven shots.
Ole Miss: The Rebels came in as the SEC’s second-best shooting team, hitting 50.7 percent from the floor. They started a little cold in the first half, hitting just 41.9 percent (13 of 31). They nearly made up for that in the second half, and they also had a 36-35 rebounding edge.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores outscored Ole Miss 36-28 in the paint but couldn’t make the Rebels pay for fouling them enough. They finished with a season-low 58.6 percent shooting at the line (17 of 29).
“It was the difference in the game,” Drew said of the free throw woes. “We make those, I think we keep the lead … It could’ve been a lot different outcome.”
Terence Davis was limited to 21 minutes with foul trouble and finished the game with four personals. Scoreless in the first half, he finished with 11 points. Davis said he was definitely conscious of being in foul trouble, but he just wanted to help the team with Tyree doing everything he could to help the Rebels win.
Ole Miss: Hosts Auburn on Wednesday night.
Vanderbilt: Visits Georgia on Wednesday night.
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