Ole Miss remains undefeated with New Year’s Eve win against Bryant

Published 8:17 pm Sunday, December 31, 2023

OXFORD (AP) — Ole Miss is rolling into 2024, but it’ll be hard to top what it did in 2023.

Allen Flanigan scored 20 points, Matthew Murrell had 18, and the duo combined for 31 second-half points to help No. 24 Ole Miss remain unbeaten with a 95-78 victory over Bryant on Sunday.

Ole Miss (13-0) heads into Southeastern Conference play having matched the 2007-08 team for the best start in program history, which also equals the school’s longest overall winning streak. Under first-year coach Chris Beard, the Rebels have already bettered last season’s 12-21 mark.

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Ole Miss’ SEC opener is Saturday, Jan. 6, at 5 p.m., on the road at No. 6 Tennessee. Ole Miss, No. 3 Houston (12-0) and No. 20 James Madison (12-0) are the only undefeated teams in NCAA Division I men’s basketball.

“If we’re going to do the things that we want to get done here and why we came to Oxford, there’s going to be a lot of records that need to be approached and broken over the years and over the next months and weeks,” Beard said. “I think our non-conference schedule proved a lot. To me, it proved that we can play on the offensive end and defensive end.”

Murrell had four points at halftime and Flanigan had just three before ripping off seven straight points early in the second half. Flanigan’s spurt pushed an 11-point halftime edge for Ole Miss to 52-34.

Flanigan finished with nine rebounds and four assists. Jaemyn Brakefield had a similarly well-rounded stat line with 16 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Jamarion Sharp added eight points and 10 rebounds, while Moussa Cisse scored 10.

Sherif Gross-Bullocks led Bryant (8-7) with 24 points and made four 3-pointers. Rafael Pinzon hit five 3s and scored 21, while Earl Timberlake had 19 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and two steals. Timberlake made 8 of 10 shots.

“I thought on offense, this was one of our cleanest games,” Beard said. “I wasn’t pleased with the way we played defense today. This team has two dominant scorers and we let both those guys get going.

“We’ve just got to keep focusing on defense, and it’s going to be a big part of our SEC journey.”

The Rebels trailed 7-6 early before scoring 13 consecutive points over a 2:36 stretch to take control. Bryant didn’t get within single digits again. Doug Edert and Gross-Bullocks hit back-to-back 3s to cut it to 70-60 with 7:38 left, but the Bulldogs couldn’t muster a real threat.

The record-tying New Year’s Eve win capped a big weekend for Ole Miss sports after the football team beat Penn State in the Peach Bowl for the Rebels’ first 11-win season.

“My New Year’s resolution is to continue winning,” Sharp said. “That’s my New Year’s resolution.”