Men’s basketball makes it interesting but eventually falls to Ole Miss Rebels, 80-77

Freshman guard Frankie Hughes, who had not scored in double figures in over a month, finished with 22 points.
UK freshman forward Wenyen Gabriel, 32, jumps for a shot during the second quarter of the home game in Mizzou Arena.

Freshman Frankie Hughes might just be the future of Missouri Tigers basketball after all, but he didn’t quite have it in him to turn the future into the present on Saturday afternoon.

Hughes finished with 22 points, just two points shy of his career high. However, he was unable to knock down an open 3-point attempt as time expired, as Missouri continued its historic road woes in a 80-77 loss to the Ole Miss Rebels in Oxford, Mississippi, on Saturday.

The loss dropped the Tigers to 7-21 (2-14) on the season and was the team’s 31st straight Southeastern Conference road loss. Missouri has not won a true road game since Jan. 28, 2014, against Arkansas. With the win, the Rebels (18-11, 9-7) held onto a one-game lead over the Vanderbilt Commodores for sixth place in the SEC standings and maintain their slim NCAA Tournament chances.

In the first half, Hughes and fellow freshman Reed Nikko almost single-handedly kept the Tigers in the game. Hughes, who entered the contest having gone 16 straight games without scoring in double figures, scored 10 points in the half and hit two key 3-pointers. Meanwhile, Nikko was a force in the paint, picking up a career-high nine rebounds off the bench to reduce the Rebels’ second-chance opportunities and limit them to perimeter shots on the offensive end. Thanks in part to poor Rebels shooting, the Tigers entered halftime down by just three, 29-26.

The Tigers weren’t so lucky in the second half, though. The Rebels opened the half shooting considerably better and forced the Tigers to transition to man defense, giving Ole Miss more space on the inside and an opportunity to get senior big man Sebastian Saiz going. Missouri held Saiz to no points or rebounds in the first half, a remarkable feat considering Saiz entered the contest seventh in the nation in rebounding and as the only player in the SEC averaging a double-double. However, Saiz went 4-for-6 from the field in the second half, including a 3-pointer from the top of the key that gave Ole Miss the lead for the final time, with 2:42 to go in the game. He finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.

The fact that Missouri was able to get the game close at all was remarkable, considering the lack of production the team saw from sophomore guard Terrence Phillips and sophomore forward Kevin Puryear. Puryear, who has shot just 10 of 37 in his last four games, finished with two points, while Phillips finished with six. Junior and leading scorer Jordan Barnett also had trouble getting going early in the game, but he was able to finish the contest with a hot hand, scoring 14 points.

Next up for Missouri is Senior Night at Mizzou Arena, as the Tigers take on Texas A&M at 6 p.m. on Tuesday night in the final home game of the season. The team will finish its regular season with one last chance to claim a road SEC victory on March 4 at Auburn.

Edited by Eli Lederman |

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