OXFORD, Miss. (AP) - The first half of Mississippi's college basketball season has been full of frustration, close losses and a sinking sensation that the season might be over before it really started.
A couple huge baskets by Breein Tyree on Saturday changed the Rebels' mood in a hurry.
Tyree scored 16 points, including two tough layups at the rim in the final minute, to lead Ole Miss over Mississippi State 64-58. It was an ugly win for the Rebels -- who struggled on offense for most of the game -- but coach Andy Kennedy isn't concerned with how they look.
"I thought it was beautiful," Kennedy said. "When you sit where I sit and you get a win, one against Mississippi State, it's a beautiful win."
Ole Miss (9-6, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) has won eight out of the past nine against Mississippi State. Deandre Burnett led the Rebels with 21 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range. Devontae Shuler added 10.
Mississippi State (13-2, 1-1) pushed ahead 34-28 by halftime on balanced scoring. The Bulldogs came into the game with the SEC's best defense -- they give up about 63 points per game -- and continually forced Ole Miss into settling for contested jumpers in the first half.
But the Rebels started making better decisions in the second half and took a 54-53 lead on Tyree's free throw with 4:45 remaining. From that point, it was a close game, but Tyree's driving layups in the final minute proved to be the difference.
"It's always great to see shots go in," Tyree said. "That's always a plus. I was just trying to make a play to help our team win and that's what happened."
Both of Tyree's crucial shots were contested, but the 6-foot-2, 192-pounder muscled his way over and through Mississippi State's defense to finish at the rim. The sophomore has played well in two straight games -- he scored 17 points against Georgia on Wednesday -- and the Rebels hope there's more where that came from during the season's final two months.
"It's so good for him to put together back-to-back good games because I need his voice on that court," Kennedy said.
Mississippi State was led by Nick Weatherspoon and Aric Holman, who both scored nine points. The Bulldogs were 0 of 13 from 3-point range in the second half.
Mississippi State was coming off an impressive win against No. 22 Arkansas and had its chances against the Rebels, but a 50-39 lead slowly evaporated over the final 10 minutes.
"We've just got to play smarter down the stretch with the ball," Mississippi State coach Ben Howland said. "We got a little tentative late in the game."
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