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Ole Miss wins consecutive SEC games for first time in defeat of Florida

The Rebels have won consecutive SEC games for the first time this decade.

Carrying over their confidence from Wednesday’s South Carolina win, Ole Miss jumped on Florida early and never really let the foot off the pedal. Beating Florida 68-51 on Saturday afternoon, Ole Miss is back on the right track.

“This is a really good Florida team. This is the best we’ve defended for 40 minutes, probably all year long,” said Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis. “I’m so proud of our team down the stretch. We just kept getting stop after stop.”

For as inconsistent and streaky as Ole Miss has been this season, Florida has somehow been even more so. Picked as a preseason top-10 team in both the AP and the Coach’s Polls, Florida came into Saturday’s game unranked. On Wednesday, they overcame a 22-point second half deficit to beat Georgia. On Saturday afternoon, the Gators started slowly again, but this time never recovered.

A 16-4 Rebel run early in the first half built a comfortable 23-11 lead for Ole Miss mid-way through the first half. Florida, as they always do, came back. Just before half, the Gators got the Rebel lead down to just four with a Scottie Lewis dunk.

Going to half with leads isn’t new for Ole Miss. Holding onto those halftime leads is something that’s been new as of this week. On Wednesday, with their win over South Carolina, the Rebels beat a lot of their demons revolving around blowing leads. That consistent energy coming out of half has not always been there. Today, like Wednesday’s win, the Rebels came out of the half with a pop.

“You know what we’re doing? We’re guarding on the other end. So maybe when there’s offensive lapses, we’re guarding so we’re getting stops,” Davis said. “Tyree was putting us on his back. But now, we’re getting multiple scorers… the balance helps you get off of those three or four minutes in which you can’t score.

Every time Florida would cut into the lead, bringing it as close as 33-31 early in the second half, Ole Miss always had a counter punch. For the most part, it was one of the more complete defensive games the team played all season, holding Florida to 33-percent from the field and 22-percent on three pointers.

Over the final 5:13 of the game, Florida scored just two points. At 47-percent shooting offensively for Ole Miss, the offense did their part in scoring 68 to win the game. But the ability to shut down the Gator offense was the true difference in the game.

For Ole Miss offensively, senior Breein Tyree went for 23 points. But Ole Miss also got 14 points from Devontae Shuler and KJ Buffen, something that hasn’t happened as consistently as the team would like. They got that Saturday.

“Those guys, (Tyree and Shuler), played like a really, really good college backcourt tonight,” Davis said. “They were terrific today.”

With the win, Ole Miss gets back above .500 at 12-11 (3-7 in the SEC). After losing their first five conference games to start January, the Rebels have quietly won 3 of their last 5 games. Next up, the home-stand continues. Ole Miss hosts rival Mississippi State on Tuesday.