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Men’s Basketball Ready for ESPN Events Invitational Title Game Against Oklahoma

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ORLANDO, Fla. – Ole Miss will play for its first three-game neutral site tournament title in 15 years when it squares off against the Oklahoma Sooners in the championship round of the 2022 ESPN Events Invitational on Sunday. Tipoff is set for 12:30 p.m. CT on ESPN, with Dave O’Brien, Dick Vitale and Chris Spatola on the call.
 
To get here, Ole Miss has used an efficient shooting attack (50.0 percent field goal shooting), a solid defensive front (65.0 points allowed per game), two excellent second halves (averaging 45.5 points in back half) and several key individual performances in victories over Stanford in the opening round (Nov. 24, 72-68) and Siena in the semifinal (Nov. 25, 74-62).
 
TEAM FACTS
 
Ole Miss Rebels (6-0, 0-0 SEC)
Head Coach: Kermit Davis • 5th Season at Ole Miss (70-61) • 539-324 career record (28th Season)
 
Oklahoma Sooners (5-1, 0-0 Big 12)
Head Coach: Porter Moser • 2nd Season at Oklahoma (24-17) • 317-259 career record (19th Season)
 
ON THE AIR
 
Television/Online: ESPN
Play-by-Play: Dave O’Brien
Color: Dick Vitale
Sideline: Chris Spatola
 
OLE MISS RADIO
 
Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network
Play-by-Play: Eli Savoie
Color: Marc Dukes

RECAP SO FAR: ESPN EVENTS INVITATIONAL

Game 1 (First Round) • vs. Stanford • Nov. 24 • W, 72-68

• Ole Miss never trailed, led by 37:36

• Rebels shot 50 percent overall, 60.7 percent in the second half

Amaree Abram: career-high, team season-high 26 points, 12-18 FG, 2-2 3PT

• Most points by Rebel freshman since Jan. 12, 2019 (26, Blake Hinson, at MSU)

• Abram three-pointer with 27 seconds to go helped keep Cardinal at bay

Jaemyn Brakefield: 17 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 5-6 FG, 2-2 3PT

Jayveous McKinnis: 15 points, 5 rebounds, 7-10 FG

Game 2 (Semifinal) • vs. Siena • Nov. 25 • W, 74-62

• Improved to 6-0 for first time since 2013-14 season

• Trailed at half, 27-26; outscored Saints in second half, 48-35

• First half featured 10 of 11 total lead changes, as well as both ties

• Ole Miss shot season-high 62.5 percent in the second half; ended at 50 percent for second straight game

Amaree Abram: 19 points (16 2H), 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 6-8 FG, 3-3 3PT, 4-4 FT

Jaemyn Brakefield: 17 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 8-14 FG

Matthew Murrell: 14 points, 4 rebounds, 3 steals

Myles Burns: 6 points, 6 rebounds, 5 steals, 3 assists

• Abram, Brakefield, Murrell: combined for 50 points, 37 in the second half

BY THE NUMBERS: OLE MISS IN THE ESPN EVENTS INVITATIONAL

• 73.0 PPG offense, 65.0 PPG defense (+8.0)

• FG%: 58-of-116 (.500)

• 3PT%: 10-of-29 (.345)

• 3PM/Game: 5.0

• FT%: 20-of-29 (.690)

• FTM/Game: 10.0

• FTA/Game: 14.5

• Rebounds/Game: 35.5

• Rebounding Margin: +7.0

• Assists/Game: 13.5

• Turnovers/Game: 13.5

• Turnovers Forced/Game: 13.0

• Steals/Game: 9.5

• Blocks/Game: 3.5

• Points off Turnovers: 27-25

• Points in the Paint: 80-60

• 2nd Chance Points: 16-20

• Fastbreak Points: 22-11

• Bench Points: 18-25

• Average Time Led: 33:50

BY THE NUMBERS: OLE MISS INDIVIDUAL STANDOUTS IN THE ESPN EVENTS INVITATIONAL

Amaree Abram: 22.5 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 2.5 APG, .692 FG (18-26), 1.000 3PT (5-5), 1.000 FT (4-4)

Jaemyn Brakefield: 17.0 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.0 SPG, .650 FG (13-20), .500 3PT (3-6), .714 FT (5-7)

Matthew Murrell: 10.0 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 2.5 APG, 2.0 SPG

Jayveous McKinnis: 9.5 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.0 BPG, .692 FG (9-13)

Myles Burns: 5.0 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 3.5 SPG, 3.5 APG

AN OLE MISS WIN WOULD…

• …improve Ole Miss to 7-0 for the first time since the 2007-08 season … That year, the Rebels started a school record 13-0 and ultimately went 24-11 and advanced to the NIT Final Four.

• …be the first non-conference neutral site tournament championship for Ole Miss since winning the 2014 Emerald Coast Classic in Niceville, Florida … Won two games against #23 Creighton (Nov. 28, 75-68) and Cincinnati (Nov. 29, 66-54).

• …be the first three-game non-conference neutral site tournament championship for Ole Miss since winning the 2007 San Juan Shootout in San Juan, Puerto Rico … Took down DePaul (Dec. 20, 69-63), LaSalle (Dec. 21, 84-77) and No. 15 Clemson in the title game (Dec. 22, 85-82) … Tied school record 11-0 start with win before ultimately setting new record at a 13-0 open to the 2007-08 season.

• …be the first Rebel win over Oklahoma since Dec. 2, 2000 (60-55, in Oxford; Oklahoma ranked No. 14).

• … be the first regular season win against the Big 12 outside of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge since Kermit Davis‘ first season in 2018-19, when the Rebels defeated Baylor, 78-70, in Destin, Florida for the 2018 Emerald Coast Classic.

SERIES HISTORY VS. OKLAHOMA: Tied, 2-2

Sunday will mark the fifth all-time meeting between the Rebels and Sooners, the first since a First Round meeting in the 2019 NCAA Tournament (L, 95-72). Sunday will also be the third neutral site meeting between Ole Miss and Oklahoma combined with that NCAA matchup and the first-ever meeting in the series in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Dec. 22, 1998 (W, 75-72; Oklahoma ranked No. 23). The other two contests were a home-and-home across the 1999-2000 and 2000-01 seasons, with the Sooners prevailing in Norman on Dec. 4, 1999 (81-73), but the Rebels exacting revenge the next year in Oxford on Dec. 2, 2000 over No. 14 Oklahoma (60-55).

LAST WIN: Dec. 2, 2000 (W, 60-55, in Oxford)

• Win No. 300 for Ole Miss inside Tad Smith Coliseum

• Oklahoma ranked No. 14

• 39th consecutive home non-conference victory for Ole Miss

• Aaron Harper: 18 points, 4 threes made

• David Sanders: 10 points

• Justin Reed: 10 points

ABOUT THE ESPN EVENTS INVITATIONAL

The 2022 ESPN Events Invitational has been held Nov. 24-27 at the State Farm Field House at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex located at Disney World. The invitational features 12 total games across three days of action, with each team playing in one game per day and advancing through the bracket. The two teams that remain undefeated throughout will face off in a championship matchup on Sun., Nov. 27. All games will air on the ESPN family of networks, with the championship game on ESPN at 12:30 p.m. CT.

HOT START

Ole Miss is one of 26 undefeated teams left in NCAA Division I college basketball, and one of four remaining in the SEC alongside No. 13 Auburn, Mississippi State and Missouri. The Rebels’ 6-0 start is the best to begin a season since the 2013-14 squad opened at 6-0, and a win on Sunday would mark the best Rebel start since the 2007-08 team set the school record at a 13-0 open. That season, the 2007-08 Rebels broke the previous record for best start of 11-0, which was set twice prior in 1936-37 and 2000-01.

DIAPER DANDY!

Amaree Abram came into the ESPN Events Invitational as a skilled but inexperienced freshman point guard filling in for the injured Daeshun Ruffin, but through two games has emerged as a serious scoring threat for the Rebels. Abram’s career-high coming into the tournament was eight points against Florida Atlantic on Nov. 11, but he more than tripled that with a bombastic 26-point showcase in the opening round against Stanford. That performance is an Ole Miss team season-high for individual points, as well as the most scored by a Rebel freshman since Blake Hinson dropped 26 at Mississippi State on Jan. 12, 2019. In non-conference play, that is the most points by a Rebel freshman since Jarvis Summers scored 27 at Penn State on Dec. 4, 2011.

Through two games in Orlando, Abram is averaging 22.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists while shooting 69.2 percent from the floor (18-of-26), as well as a perfect 5-of-5 from three and 4-of-4 from the charity stripe. Abram — a native of Port Arthur, Texas — came to Ole Miss from Southern California Academy, where he was a four-star ESPN Top-100 prospect (No. 98 overall).

RENAISSANCE MAN

Senior transfer Myles Burns has made an immediate impact for the Rebels on both ends of the floor with a unique talent blend as a defensive force and a go-getter on the offensive glass. Burns currently leads the SEC and ranks No. 4 in the NCAA at 3.3 steals per game, while also ranking eighth in the conference at 2.7 offensive boards per game.

Prior to Ole Miss, Burns had an extraordinary career at Loyola New Orleans, where he was a four-time NAIA All-American and three-time SSAC Defensive Player of the Year. With the Wolf Pack, Burns played in 120 career games with 111 starts, while setting career averages of 15.3 points (1,852), 8.8 rebounds (1,069), 3.0 steals (358), 2.5 assists (298) and 1.0 blocks (116). In Loyola’s record book, Burns ranks No. 1 in steals (358), No. 2 all-time in points (1,852), No. 2 in rebounds (1,069), No. 4 in blocks (116) and No. 7 in assists (298), with his 358 steals resting 163 more than any other player in Loyola history. Burns helped lead Loyola to the 2022 NAIA National Championship title, the first in school history since 1945, as the tournament MVP at 19.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and 5.2 steals with four double-doubles in six tournament games.

Burns is no stranger to dominating these two distinct statistical categories, though, as his 151 offensive rebounds and 152 steals in 2021-22 had no rival in all of college basketball, with the nearest Division I comparison being defending national player of the year Oscar Tshiebwe of Kentucky, who had 179 offensive rebounds and 60 steals last season. Furthermore, Burns’ 152 steals last season earned him the 2022 Marques Haynes Award, which is given annually to the player with the most steals in all of college basketball, regardless of division.

CONSISTENCY KEY FOR BRAKEFIELD

Junior Jaemyn Brakefield has been a rock for the Rebels throughout their 6-0 start, currently leading the team with a 68.6 percent clip from the field and ranking third on the team at 11.0 points per game. Brakefield has been even more steady in Orlando for the ESPN Events Invitational, scoring 17 points in each of the first two contests while shooting 65 percent overall, 50 percent from three and leading the team in rebounding at 7.5 boards per game. Brakefield is one of three players in the SEC this season to go at least 6-of-6 from the field, tallying a 6-of-6 game against Florida Atlantic on Nov. 11 — his first of three season-high 17-point games this year.

LIGHTS OUT

Ole Miss has lit the net on fire in its first two games of the ESPN Events Invitational, shooting 50 percent overall and 41.6 percent from three. The Rebels have shot 50 percent exactly in its last two games, the first two-game stretch at or above 50 percent since the opening of the 2021-22 season against New Orleans (.531) and Charleston Southern (.507). A third game at or above 50 percent on Sunday would be the first three-game stretch for Ole Miss since the 2020-21 season at Auburn (.500; Feb. 6, 86-84/OT), vs. No. 10 Missouri (.569; Feb. 10, 80-59) and at South Carolina (.500; Feb. 13, 81-74). Under head coach Kermit Davis, Ole Miss is 32-5 overall when shooting 50 percent or better. Ole Miss currently ranks fifth in the SEC in both overall field goal shooting (.461) and three-point shooting (.348).

WHEN IT COUNTS

Ole Miss has been especially strong in the second half this season, shooting 50.6 percent overall in the back half while outscoring opponents 254-203 (42.3 points per second half, +8.5 scoring margin). Additionally, the Rebels have put up a +6.5 rebounding margin in the second half this season, while junior Matthew Murrell is averaging 9.8 points and 1.5 threes per second have this season. More recently at the ESPN Events Invitational, Ole Miss is shooting a blistering 61.4 percent overall and 42.9 percent from beyond the arc in the second half, led by 15.0 points per second half by Amaree Abram, who is a perfect 4-of-4 from deep in the back half.

MM11

Junior Matthew Murrell has wasted no time lighting the net on fire this season, picking up right where he left off last season as one of the most feared three-point shooters nationwide. Murrell ranks seventh in the SEC in threes per game (2.7) and sixth in total threes made (16). Murrell also ranks 10th in the SEC at 15.2 points per game, helped by two 20-point outings against Chattanooga (25) and Alcorn State (20). Against the Mocs, Murrell drained a career-high six three-pointers — the most by a Rebel since Devontae Shuler nailed six threes against Wichita State on Jan. 2, 2021. His 25-point game against Chattanooga marked his sixth career 20-point outing, which all have come within his last 23 games played dating back to last season. In his career, Murrell has hit five or more threes four times, while also notching seven games with at least four, 12 with at least three, 24 with multiple threes, and he had a 25-consecutive game streak with at least one three made snapped against Stanford on Nov. 24. Murrell has been a legit scoring threat since he stepped foot on campus as Ole Miss’ highest-rated signee in program history, but he has been especially lights-out since the start of last conference season. Since the beginning of the 2021-22 SEC season, only Tennessee’s Santiago Vescovi has more threes made in the conference with 73 trifectas to Murrell’s 59. Late last year, Murrell ecplised 20 points in consecutive games for the first time in his career over his last three regular season games, averaging 22.5 points and 3.5 threes made across two strong outings vs. Texas A&M (20 points) and at No. 6 Kentucky (25 points) — a stretch in which he shot 57.7 percent overall and 53.8 percent from beyond the arc. All four of Murrell’s 20-point games came in SEC play last season, topped by a superb 31-point outing vs. Mississippi State on Jan. 8.

MURRELL NAMED PRESEASON ALL-SEC

Ole Miss junior Matthew Murrell was honored by the league head coaches, earning Second-Team Preseason All-SEC in recognition of his sharp-shooting prowess last season. Murrell – a native of Memphis, Tennessee – is among the best three-point shooters and all-around guards returning from SEC action last year after ending the 2021-22 conference season ranked second in three-point shooting (.426), third in threes per game (2.5), sixth in minutes per game (34.1), eighth in field goal shooting (.466) and ninth in scoring (15.5). Murrell accounted for 26.6 percent of all three-pointers made by the Rebels last season, and he especially turned it on late, averaging 20.0 points and 3.0 threes over his final three games, as well as 16.3 points and 2.5 threes over his final eight games.

Sparking that SEC season stretch for Murrell was a historic outing versus in-state rival Mississippi State on Jan. 8, where he was nearly perfect in a bombastic 31-point outing against the Bulldogs. Murrell that day became only the third Rebel to go 5-of-5 from beyond the arc, and he is the only Rebel to do so against an SEC opponent during the regular season. Murrell was also 6-of-6 from the free throw line, with his lone blemish coming from within the arc in the closing minutes to end 10-of-11 overall from the field.

Murrell was also big when the spotlight was on against ranked opponents, averaging 15.0 points while shooting 42.9 percent overall and 45 percent from three in six games against AP Top-25 schools. Included in those six were two Ole Miss victories over No. 18 Memphis on Dec. 4 and No. 25 LSU on Feb. 1, during which Murrell averaged 14.0 points for the Rebels.

BEST OF THE BEST

Ole Miss’ four senior transfers are among some of the best returning big men in all of college basketball. Jayveous McKinnis stands as one of the best returners in the nation this year, currently third in total rebounds (1,031), fifth in total blocks (236), fifth in career double-doubles (38), eighth in rebounds per game (9.4), 10th in blocks per game (2.2) and 17th in field goal shooting (.608). McKinnis is one of just four active players in all of college basketball with 1,000 career rebounds alongside South Alabama’s Kevin Samuel (1,093), North Carolina’s Armando Bacot (1,048) and Nicholls’ Manny Littles (1,004). He is also just one of three, alongside Samuel and Bacot, with 1,000 career points (1,108) and 1,000 career rebounds.

Ole Miss is one of two schools with multiple top-20 rebounders on the active career list alongside Texas Tech. McKinnis (1,031) and Josh Mballa (804; No. 18) combine for 1,835 career rebounds, the second-most among teammates behind Texas Tech’s 1,839 from Fardaws Almaq (918) and Kevin Obanor (921).

Ole Miss also ranks highly on the career blocks list with two top-10 entries at the moment. McKinnis ranks fifth at 236 swats, while Theo Akwuba sits eighth at 190. Combined at 426 career rejections, the Rebel duo accounts for a whopping 17.8 percent of the 2,399 career blocks among the active top-10. Ole Miss stands as one of just two schools with multiple top-25 active blockers alongside Gardner-Webb, but the Rebels are the only school with two within the top-10. The Rebel trio of McKinnis (38, No. 5), Mballa (29, No. 13) and Akwuba (17, No. 44) combine for 84 career double-doubles, with McKinnis and Mballa owning the second-most by a pair of teammates with 67 behind Texas Tech’s Almaq (41) and Obanor (35) at 76.

* Note: Myles Burns’ 1,069 career rebounds while at NAIA Loyola New Orleans do not transfer over to the NCAA records lists, but he would lead the nation at 1,105 if they did and give Ole Miss a combined 4,252 boards between Akwuba (655), Burns, Mballa, McKinnis and Robert Allen (657). Burns’ combined career total of 1,894 points would also rank No. 10 among all NCAA divisions at the moment.

AIN’T WASTING TIME NO MORE

With eight new faces for Ole Miss this season, the Rebel newcomers are already seeing serious minutes and have contributed to the team’s 6-0 start.

Newcomer Splits:

Minutes: 52.6% (634 of 1206)

Scoring: 49.4% (218 of 441)

Rebounding: 46.4% (116 of 239)

Assists: 65.9% (54 of 82)

Steals: 63.0% (17 of 23)

Blocks: 73.9% (12 of 16)

Newcomer Scoring:

vs. Alcorn State: 29 of 73 (39.7%)

vs. Florida Atlantic: 36 of 80 (45.0%)

vs. Chattanooga: 33 of 70 (47.1%)

vs. UT Martin: 35 of 72 (48.6%)

vs. Stanford: 48 of 72 (66.7%)

vs. Siena: 37 of 74 (50.0%)

For the latest news and updates regarding Ole Miss Men’s Basketball, follow the Rebels on Twitter at @OleMissMBB, on Facebook at Ole Miss Men’s Basketball and on Instagram at olemissmbb.

 



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