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Ole Miss rebounds from first loss with dominant win over Florida

Jan. 10—OXFORD — Ole Miss was punched in the mouth for the first time all season in its SEC opener against Tennessee Saturday, but the Rebels responded by throwing some haymakers of their own on Wednesday night against Florida.

The Rebels pulled away from the Gators in the second half to register a 103-85 win, their first against a conference opponent this season. Ole Miss outscored Florida 59-45 in the final 20 minutes. The Rebels will host Vanderbilt on Saturday at noon.

"I told the guys like, life's not easy, we're all going to be in situations from time to time where we have to respond, so one of our core values in our program is responding," Ole Miss head coach Chris Beard said. "Certainly didn't feel like we played our best the other day at Tennessee, give them all the credit. We did a lot of, a little soul searching here early in the season. ... We knew we had to come out tonight and kind of make a stand for ourselves."

Ole Miss (14-1, 1-1 SEC) and Florida (10-5, 0-2 SEC) largely traded baskets for the first 10 minutes of the first half, but the Rebels broke away after that. Ole Miss went on a 15-2 run to take a 29-20 lead with 7:34 to go in the first half. However, a late Florida surge cut the deficit down to 44-40 at halftime.

Jaemyn Brakefield's torrid offensive run continued early on against Florida. The senior had a team-high 28 points for his sixth consecutive game with double-digit points.

"The game's going to bring different nights scoring, but I did love the way (Brakefield) was aggressive," Beard said. "It ended up being a special night for him, but he was just aggressive from the onset. Had the courage to take big shots, was driving the ball, was really dialed in in a lot of ways."

Brakefield was a key component of an Ole Miss offense that had its way with Florida's defense throughout the night. The Rebels shot 59.1% from the field, the best any opponent has shot against Florida this season.

Six straight points for Brakefield early in the second half were part of a hot start for Ole Miss in the second half. The Gators would have moments where they were looking like they were going to get back in it, but Ole Miss kept finding a way to force turnovers — Florida turned it over 14 times — and missed shots when it needed to. The Rebels also had 16 blocks, led by Jamarion Sharp's program-record nine.

"After the first one, it just feels like I can do more," Sharp said. "It's really all about timing, and once I'm in that zone, I time everything. And tonight, I was in that zone."

Ole Miss found the dagger with a 20-5 run punctuated by a Matthew Murrell three to extend the lead to 20 with over 12 minutes to go and effectively put the game out of reach. Murrell joined Brakefield as the second Ole Miss player to surpass the 20-point mark with 23 on the night.

"Matt had a great week of practice," Beard said. "When you come off an adversity situation like we did at Tennessee and get back, you got a couple days of practice, you need your best players to respond. And Matt did that in practice, kind of led us in a lot of ways among some of our other veteran players."

brendan.farrell@djournal.com