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Hot first-half shooting guides Ole Miss past Vanderbilt

Jan. 13—Vanderbilt had no answer for Ole Miss' Matthew Murrell Saturday afternoon.

Murrell had a team-high 24 points for his second consecutive game with at least 20, and a hot start for the Rebels' offense boosted Ole Miss past Vanderbilt for a 69-56 win at home. Allen Flanigan (16) and Jaylen Murray (12) also finished with double-digit points.

"When you're on a good team, scoring comes in bunches, and it's important to let the game come to you," Ole Miss head coach Chris Beard said. "I thought Matt did exactly that — took great shots from where I was sitting all game long. There's no question that we got some open looks in the second half because of Matt being on the floor, whether it be a pick and roll or spacing or things like that."

Murrell was at the top of his game from the opening tipoff. The senior knocked down a jumper seconds in for the game's first points, but he did most of his damage from outside. He finished the first half 7 of 8 from the floor and 4 of 5 from behind the arc for 18 points.

"The team's finding ways to get me to my spots, and I'm just executing," Murrell said. "Coach knows I come in every day, shoot all my game shots day in, day out. So it's just reps, and then those reps go into the game."

A game after scoring 103 points and shooting 59% from the field against Florida, Ole Miss (15-1, 2-1 SEC) offered similar numbers in the first half. The Rebels shot 57% from the field and 58.3% from behind the arc.

"I think I said that a couple times earlier in the season when we had some off nights and people were even asking questions about our shooting — we have good shooters," Beard said. "I think to be a quality team you've got to have four or five guys that are 40% three-point shooters and different guys have different shot selections. But there's no doubt about it, we need that."

Ole Miss spent most of the first half in the lead, but usually not by more than six points. Three treys from Murrell in the final four-and-a-half minutes helped give Ole Miss a double-digit lead that ultimately turned into a 41-32 advantage at the break.

But the Rebels' hot start didn't carry over into the second half. Ole Miss had a drought in the second half where a Moussa Cisse dunk were its only points for over five minutes. In that span, Vanderbilt (5-11, 0-3 SEC) outscored the Rebels 13-2 to trim the deficit to three. After some lights-out shooting in the first half, the Rebels made just 25.8% of their field goals in the second.

Even with some offensive struggles in the second half, Ole Miss found a way to close out the Commodores. The Murray three was the start of a 10-0 run for Ole Miss, and Vanderbilt couldn't find a way back in it after that.

"I thought defensively we did have some maturity to us," Beard said. "I think (they) got to 10 a couple times and you feel kind of the pressure. I thought the guys were dialed in, there wasn't any panic from where I was sitting. Then we were able to string some stops together. For us, we get three consecutive stops in a game, we call that a kill. We're always trying to get about seven kills a game. We actually did get a couple of kills in the second half when our offense wasn't helping us much.'

Ole Miss will look to stay above .500 in conference play on Wednesday at LSU.

brendan.farrell@djournal.com