Thursday, January 10, 2019
Last year, the University of Mississippi men's basketball team won just 12 games, and then, the school ousted long-time head coach Andy Kennedy. Now, the Rebels could already be in the midst of a turnaround season.
At this point last year, UM lost seven games, but the team has only lost two this season. The Rebels already have 12 wins, including a road SEC victory over Vanderbilt University at the start of conference play.
Leading the turnaround is junior guard Breein Tyree, who is averaging 17.4 points per game. His career-high 31 points against Vanderbilt helped the Rebels to an 81-17 win over the Commodores. Tyree earned the title of SEC Player of the Week, making him the first UM player to receive the honor since Jan. 23, 2017.
That career high is just part of his breakout season. In the SEC, the Somerset, N.J., native ranks second in scoring, third in field-goal percentage, fourth in free-throw percentage and fourth in three-point shooting. He is also in the top 10 in the conference in minutes played and three-point shots. He leads UM in points, field goals, three-point shots and free throws, and is currently third in assists and steals, and fifth in rebounds and blocks for his team.
Tyree joined the Rebels out of Saint Joseph High School in Metuchen, N.J., where he averaged 16.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists as a senior. He was a top-100 player nationally and the No. 5 player in New Jersey. That year, he also was named first team all-conference and second team all-state, and led his team to the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament championship.
Even though he played in 34 games and made 23 starts during his freshman season of 2016-2017, it was slow going for the guard at first. He only averaged 7.3 points and just shy of two assists and rebounds per game. In the 2017-2018 season, he played in all 32 games and made 23 starts. His averages also rose, with 10.8 points, 2.8 assists and 2.2 rebounds per game.
After only 14 games this season, Tyree, who is chair of the SEC Basketball Leadership Council, is already nearing his freshman scoring output, with 244 points compared to the 249 he made in his first year. He will need only a few more stellar games to surpass the 347 points he scored as a sophomore.
He did not have his best game in the Rebels' most recent bout against top-10 ranked Auburn University on Wednesday, Jan. 9, though. He scored just five points on one-of-10 shooting with five rebounds and two assists. The good news is the Rebels upset the Tigers 82-67 and moved to 2-0 in SEC play, even with the off night for the star guard. After defeating Auburn, UM is on a nine-game winning streak.
Tyree and the Rebels will travel to Starkville this Saturday, Jan. 12, to take on the No. 14 Mississippi State University Bulldogs. CBS will air the game, which starts at noon.