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Ole Miss falls to Illinois State 101-97 in overtime

Bruce Stevens led the Rebels with 27 points.

Posted: Dec. 16, 2017 10:40 PM

OXFORD, Miss. (WTVA/Ole Miss Athletics) - Ole Miss lost its third home overtime game this season, this one perhaps in more frustrating fashion than the previous two, in a 101-97 loss to Illinois State.

The same factors that have hindered this team through the first nine games contributed to this stinging defeat. Andy Kennedy has implored his team to have a sense of urgency about them for the entirety of the game. The Rebels fell behind 35-17 in the first half to put themselves in a hole for the rest of the game.

"It is embarrassing for me to have put so much blood, sweat and tears into this program to have to coach effort at this point," Kennedy said. "It is ridiculous, but I am coaching it every single day."

Ole Miss has struggled to keep defenders in front of them off the dribble and went zone off of made baskets to combat that. Illinois State as a result went 13 of 31 from the three-point line and 6 of 11 in the first half as it shot over the top of the zone.

"We started out with that 1-3-1 on made field goals, and they just cut us up," Kennedy said. "They took that out of the equation. We were really just trying to flip our roster from offense to defense to give us a chance."

Kennedy pointed to the angles they are taking defensively as part of the reason for the team's inability to stay in front of the ball.

"Defense starts with effort and angles," Kennedy said. "Your effort has to be off the charts and ours is not there right now."

The Rebels battled back from the hole they were in as they have each time this season, largely thanks to Bruce Stevens' presence in the post on the offensive end. The Rebels began to click offensively, but again it came after they faced a large deficit.

"I think it is our approach," Terence Davis said. "The second half we come out and get it right. It is our approach."

The team was able to close the large first half deficit to 10 as it went into the locker room trailing 43-33, surviving a half in which it 12 of 38 from the field.

This game followed a similar script as others have this year. Ole Miss gradually chipped away at the lead and brought itself back into the game. A 12-point lead was erased to seven at the 11-minute mark. Six points from Stevens in a three-minute stretch helped trim the deficit to one with six minutes left. Twenty-one of the junior's career-high 27 points came in the second half as he tried to bring his team back from a deficit that was as large as 14 in the second half.

"We went to Bruce down there, and he responded," Kennedy said. "He was great offensively."

Ole Miss took its first lead since the early minutes of the game when Markel Crawford hit a free throw to go up 81-80. Breein Tyree followed that with a three-pointer to give the Rebels their largest lead of the game. Ole Miss looked to be in full control after Illinois State's two leading interior scorers fouled out down the stretch. Milik Yarbrough had 25 points and 10 rebounds when he picked up his fifth foul with three minutes left, and Phil Fayne watched the last seven minutes of regulation from the bench after fouling out. He had 16 points and 10 rebounds.

The Redbirds came into the game ranked near the bottom of Division I in rebounding yet held a 49-41 advantage on the glass in this game with 17 offensive rebounds.

An Isaac Gassman three-pointer tied the game at 85-85 with 1:44 left. The teams traded free throws in the final 100 seconds, and after two crucial defensive stops, Ole Miss had a chance to win the game in regulation with six seconds left. A baseline stack out-of-bounds play saw Davis get the ball on the low block as the final seconds melted off the clock.

He fought through a great deal of contact but missed the shot.

"A lot of it is due to our inability to make a play at the end," Kennedy said. "Think about the end of regulation. We get the ball on the low block, right hand with our all-league player. We have to finish that."

Davis had 17 points on 7 of 15 shooting. Deandre Burnett had 19 and Markel Crawford had 15. Five different Rebels scored in double figures, but it wasn't enough to overcome some of the defensive lapses.

The game went into an overtime period that the Redbirds won 14-10 even without two of its post scorers. Keyshawn Evans had 25 for the Redbirds and made five three-pointers.

"We have tried so many things to light a fire," Kennedy said. "We haven't been successful doing that."

Kennedy spoke candidly about his team's effort and will to win after this sour loss that dropped Ole Miss to 5-5 on the season.

"We have hit adversity early," Kennedy said. "It has fragmented us as opposed to bring us together."

He challenged his team to respond as conference play nears.

"I am hurting that we can't finish games," Davis said. "We have to take advantage of opportunities."

Ole Miss returns to action on Tuesday night against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at 6 p.m. The game will be televised on SEC Network and can be heard on the airwaves of the Ole Miss IMG Sports Network.

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