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Vanderbilt drops SEC opener to Ole Miss, 81-71

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Well that was... suboptimal.

NCAA Basketball: Mississippi at Vanderbilt Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Strangely, it wasn’t a slow start that caused problems for Vanderbilt in its SEC opener against the Ole Miss Rebels on Saturday night. The Commodores scored the game’s first six points, and got out to a 10-4 lead behind a couple of early baskets from Yanni Wetzell.

But then Ole Miss switched into a 1-3-1 halfcourt trap that the Commodores couldn’t seem to figure out. The game turned into a slog, with both teams countering each other’s punches for most of the first half. Joe Toye connected on Vanderbilt’s first three-pointer with 8:54 left in the first half; that was immediately countered by a three from Ole Miss’s Breein Tyree, who finished the game with 31 points. About a minute later, Simi Shittu made a layup and then intercepted a lazy pass from K.J. Buffen; Buffen hammered Shittu as he took it in for a dunk attempt. After review, Buffen was charged with a flagrant foul.

Strangely, that flipped the game — in the opposite direction. Shittu made one of the two free throws, and after Toye missed a three-pointer on the ensuing possession, Ole Miss went on a 13-5 run and went into the half up 35-32.

Vanderbilt came out firing in the second half, though, building a 53-47 lead on an and-1 by Shittu with 14:23 left. Ole Miss came back, though, and took a 63-60 lead on a Terence Davis three with 7:54 left, and a layup by Devontae Shuler made it 65-60. And then the Rebels left the door open for Vanderbilt to come back — but instead, while the Rebels went two minutes without scoring, Vanderbilt couldn’t get back into the game. Two free throws by Tyree made it 67-60 with 5:35 left, and Vanderbilt never came within five points again as the Rebels picked up an 81-71 win.

Shittu led Vanderbilt with 21 points and 9 rebounds, but Vanderbilt’s poor shooting night — 6-of-20 from three-point range and 17-of-29 at the foul line — did the Commodores in. Vanderbilt drops to 9-4, 0-1 in the SEC, and will play at Georgia on Wednesday night.