OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi coach Kermit Davis convinced his team to begin a brand new season with a win Wednesday night and it worked convincingly.
Breein Tyree scored a career-high 38 points as Mississippi defeated South Carolina 84-70, snapping a three-game winning streak by the Gamecocks and earning the 500th career victory for Davis.
“I told them to forget everything, look straight ahead and win February, starting now,” Davis said. “From start to finish, this was one of our very best games. I am proud of our guys and this team has good basketball ahead for them.”
Tyree finished 12 of 21 from the field, 11 of 13 from the free throw line and added three rebounds and two assists. Blake Hinson and Khadim Sy scored 13 and 10 points respectively as Ole Miss (11-11, 2-7 SEC) never trailed.
The Rebels raced to an 8-0 lead in the opening three minutes, led 43-32 at halftime and by as many as 19 points, 72-53, on a 3-point shot by Tyree with 6:29 remaining.
“We didn’t celebrate like we had just won the Super Bowl, but it was all positive in our locker room,” Tyree said. “This team hasn’t given up. We talked about winning the month of February and we still have a lot to play for.”
South Carolina (13-9, 5-4) was led by Jermaine Cousinard’s career-high 28 points. Maik Kotsar added 19 points with a team-high eight rebounds.
“We weren’t good. But give Ole Miss a lot of credit,” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said. “Tyree led his team like a senior guard is supposed to do.”
Ole Miss shot 27 of 57 (47.4%) from the field, including 6 of 12 from 3-point range, and 24 of 32 (75%) from the free throw line. The Rebels out rebounded South Carolina 39-29, as Sy had a team-high eight rebounds.
South Carolina was 23 of 56 (41%) from the field, 6 of 20 (30%) from the 3-point line, highlighted by Cousinard with 8 of 18 from the field, including three 3s.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks did not play like a team that had won five of the last six games. Lawson, the leading scorer at 13.9 points per game, had a tough night.
Lawson was 1 of 6 from the field, including 1 of 4 from 3-point range in the first half, while the Rebels built an 11-point halftime lead that was never seriously threatened in the second half.
“That’s not the way we have played the last four games,” Martin said.
“We’ve had a lifeless approach to practice lately. Our practice attitude will have to change if we are going to give ourselves a chance to play better.”
Ole Miss: The Rebels opened a three-game home stand by snapping a two-game losing streak. After scoring 17 points in the previous two games, Tyree had 18 at halftime.
Hinson did not score in 24 minutes in his previous start at LSU, but had a strong bounce-back performance that included 13 points, seven rebounds, two assists, a blocked shot an a steal.
The win was No. 500 for Kermit Davis, in a 25-year career that includes Coach of the Year honors in four different conferences. Davis won 332 games during a 16-year stint at Middle Tennessee State.
“I’m very proud on a lot of levels, especially for my family and winning the 500th here. But I’ve had a lot of great places to coach, a lot of great assistant coaches and a lot of great players,” Davis said. “But what it mostly means is I’m an old coach and that there were a lot of tough losses (287 losses), too.”
South Carolina: Hosts Texas A&M on Saturday.
Ole Miss: Hosts Florida on Saturday.
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