Ole Miss picks up first SEC win behind hot shooting from Matthew Murrell

Published 10:48 pm Saturday, January 8, 2022

OXFORD, Miss — Ole Miss men’s basketball picked up a statement win against Mississippi State Saturday behind a career performance by Matthew Murrell.

The sophomore from Memphis poured in a career-high 31 points on 10-11 shooting, including 5-5 from beyond the arc. He was perfect from the field in the first half, leading the Rebels to a 14-point lead and energizing the crowd with every shot.

“Matt Murrell just got into an unbelievable zone tonight,” head coach Kermit Davis said. “He’s been practicing like that lately… Matt has really taken a step forward and [is] becoming an overall better player… He played like one of the better guards in the SEC.”

“I got going with a couple layups and the threes just started to fall. I just felt like I couldn’t miss,” Murrell said.

Murrell is just the third player in school history to go perfect from three-point range on at least five attempts, and his 31 points are the most scored by a player in an SEC game so far this season.

Ole Miss continues to set the nets ablaze in SEC play, shooting 48.8% from 3-pt range as a team in their first two conference matchups.

The offensive explosion was a welcome sight for an Ole Miss team that ranks 13th in the SEC in points per game. The Rebels used their size and strength to their advantage all night, taking advantage of a Bulldog’s team that sorely missed star forward Tolu Smith.

Ole Miss pounded the ball inside time after time down the court, playing fundamentally sound, inside-out basketball en route to a 82 – 72 victory.

Freshman point guard Daeshun Ruffin gave Ole Miss the lead early in the first half on a stepback triple from the left corner that helped spark a 15-2 run and gave the Rebels a double-digit advantage.

Davis’s squad never looked back, playing suffocating defense and wearing the Bulldogs down with their relentless drives to the rim.

The Bulldogs made a concerted effort to slow Murrell down in the second half, denying him the ball and trapping him on nearly every screen.

That opened up space for Nysier Brooks to roll to the rim with ease and the 7’0″ center took advantage, scoring six of the first eight Ole Miss field goals in the second half.

“The second half they definitely made adjustments and put their better defenders on me so we drew up certain plays to get other people open because we knew they would help on me more,” Murrell said.

Brooks was a physical presence in the post throughout the second half, finishing with 15 points and a career-high 16 rebounds to go along with five blocks.

“Brooks was just the difference in the game… just was a presence the whole night. He just never left the paint,” Davis said.

“I’ve just been trying to attack the glass,” Brooks said. “I realized in a couple of our losses, when my rebounding wasn’t in double digit figures we were really having a hard time with holding a lead so I’ve just tried to keep an aggressive mindset on attacking the rim, rebounding the ball and also trying to score.”

Mississippi State cut the lead down to seven with just over four minutes remaining, but Murrell answered with a dagger from the right wing, his first made shot in nearly nine minutes.

Ole Miss coasted to an easy victory after an acrobatic layup from Ruffin on the following possession that pushed the lead back to double-digits and forced Mississippi State head coach Ben Howland to burn his final timeout.

Ruffin played his best game as a Rebel to date, pouring in 17 points and a career-high eight assists.

“Daeshun made a lot of people better in the first half… he creates offense for others and he’s just gotta learn, keep learning how to be a point guard,” Davis said. “He made some really, really good plays, had some freshman plays at the end… but I thought that was by far his best overall game.”

Ole Miss (9-5, 1-1 SEC) will look to build on this momentum when they travel to College Station on Tuesday to take on Texas A&M (13-2, 2-0 SEC).