Ole Miss coach apologizes to fans after blowout loss to Texas A&M

Published 8:46 pm Saturday, March 9, 2024

OXFORD — February was frustrating, and March so far has been maddening for Ole Miss’ men’s basketball team.

Manny Obaseki continued to give Texas A&M a late-season burst, scoring a career-high 25 points to lead the Aggies to their third straight win, 86-60 over Ole Miss in the regular-season finale for both teams on Saturday.

“I just want to apologize to everybody,” Ole Miss coach Chris Beard said. “I’ll check with (Ole Miss athletic director Keith Carter) and see what the rules are on this, but anybody that paid money to come see this game today, I’d like you to get reimbursed. And season ticketholders, I just want to apologize. That’s not the effort that you spend your time and money to come watch.”

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Ole Miss (20-11, 7-11 Southeastern Conference) has lost eight of 10 games since the start of February. What looked like a sure NCAA Tournament berth has devolved into needing a miracle run through next week’s SEC Tournament to reach the Big Dance.

The Rebels will head into the SEC Tournament on a two-game losing streak.

“I think we’ve got some individual people in the organization that have to check up, do some soul-searching. Certainly from a coaching standpoint we have to do a better job,” Beard said. “I know no other way than to get back to work. But before you get back to work physically, you’ve got to get back to work mentally. We have a lot of guys in our organization that have to make a decision — who am I? What’s my last name? Do I have some pride?”

Obaseki has started the last three games for Texas A&M (18-13, 9-9), his first starts since the 2022 NIT Championship game, and responded with double-figure scoring each time. Saturday he was 9-of-14 with four 3-pointers. He came in averaging 4.9 points per game.

“He’s been through a lot of things, but he’s never blamed anybody, he’s never complained. He’s been very consistent in his character and incredibly consistent in his work ethic whether he plays a lot or he plays a little,” Texas A&M coach Buzz Williams said. “He’s obviously helping our team, but it’s a good lesson for all of us to hang in there when things don’t go your way.”

Tyrece Radford added 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Aggies. Wade Taylor IV had 19 points and seven assists, and Solomon Washington 10 points and 10 rebounds. The Aggies shot 50 percent from the field, making half of their 26 3-point shots after averaging 27 percent this season from the arc, worst in the SEC.

They outrebounded the Rebels 50-21, including 18-5 on the offensive boards, bettering their nation-leading average of 17.3.

“We just wanted to do the things that we knew leads to winning. That’s getting rebounds, having the most energy,” Taylor said.

Texas A&M scored the first 14 points of the game and shortly thereafter Obaseki connected for three consecutive 3-pointers and the lead was 18.

Ole Miss responded with a 17-5 run, with Jaemyn Brakefield scoring eight points, to cut it to 28-22. Back-to-back 3s by Radford and Taylor rebuilt Texas A&M’s double-digit lead and the Aggies went into halftime ahead 42-29.

The lead remained in double figures in the second half, eventually reaching 33 late in the game.

Jaylen Murray scored 21 points, Matthew Murrell 11 and Brakefield 10 for Ole Miss. Brakefield became the 43rd member of the school’s 1,000-career point club.