LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL (NEWS10) – Ole Miss opened the second half connecting on 11 of their first 13 shots to amass 28 points over the initial 8:03 of the stanza to defeat Siena Basketball 74-62 in the ESPN Events Invitational Semifinals at the State Farm Field House. Javian McCollum established a new career-high with 24 points and tied his career-best with eight assists for the second straight day to lead the Saints.
Amaree Abram scored 19 points on 6-8 shooting including a perfect 3-3 from three for Ole Miss (6-0) which advances to the ESPN Events Invitational Championship Game Sunday at 1:30 p.m. The Rebels await the winner of tonight’s second semifinal (8 p.m.) between Oklahoma and Seton Hall.
For the second straight day, Siena (3-3) hung tough with a high-major opponent. But after dominating the ACC’s Florida State from start to finish on Thanksgiving morning, Friday’s semifinal featured 10 lead changes and a pair of ties over the opening 20 minutes. However, the Saints once again acquitted themselves quite well, holding Ole Miss to just 38% shooting in the opening frame and forcing 10 turnovers to claim a 27-26 lead at the break.
Ole Miss kicked it into another gear though to open the second half, more than doubling their first half scoring output over the first eight minutes of a decisive final stanza. The Rebels shot 62% overall in the second half, and built as much as a 14-point lead at 61-47 with 8:22 remaining.
Siena made one final push, scoring the ensuing nine points to rally back within a pair of possessions at 61-56 with 4:40 to go, but Ole Miss responded with the next six points down the stretch to hold on.
Jaemyn Brakefield tallied 17 points and seven rebounds and Matthew Murrell chipped in 14 points for the Rebels who are off to their first 6-0 start in nine years.
Jackson Stormo scored 13 points and pulled down six rebounds, while Jared Billups added 11 points and six rebounds for the Saints who dipped below .500 to 5-6 all-time vs. the 10 current members of the Southeastern Conference. Friday’s matchup vs. Ole Miss marked Siena’s first vs. an SEC foe since facing 12th ranked Tennessee in this same event back in 2008.
After opening the ESPN Events Invitational on Thanksgiving with the program’s first win over a high-major in eight years, Siena will look to conjure up some more magic as they set their sights on the Third Place Game Sunday at 5 p.m. on ESPN2. The Saints will take on the loser of tonight’s matchup between the Sooners and Pirates. Siena has never before faced Oklahoma, and hasn’t played Seton Hall since 1974, preceding the program’s elevation to the Division I level in 1976.