The Ole Miss senior has been doing it for four seasons, so it’s no secret. Missouri was completely ready for it.
And the Tigers could do nothing to stop it.
Holloway scored a game-high 22 points, repeatedly getting his chiseled 6-foot-7, 240-pound body into good position and finishing at the rim, to lead Ole Miss to a surprisingly easy 64-49 victory over No. 10 Missouri on Saturday.
“He’s an all-league player and we were getting the ball to his big, broad shoulders and that left hand,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “He’s a man. If the season ended today, and I wish it did because we’d be the champions, he would be the league MVP.”
Jarvis Summers added 12 points. He and Holloway helped offset a mediocre night from Marshall Henderson, the SEC’s leading scorer who finished with only 11 points on 4 of 11 shooting.
Ole Miss (13-2, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) led the entire game, jumping out to an early 9-0 lead thanks to timely shooting and superior defense. Holloway was nearly unstoppable in the paint, making 8 of 12 shots from the field and 6 of 10 free throws.
“You know there’s a little extra motivation against the No. 10 team in the nation,” Holloway said. “It’s motivation. You want to beat them, show them that they’re not that good. We had to make those (hustle) plays to beat that team.”
Missouri (12-3, 1-1) was without leading scorer Laurence Bowers, who is out with a sprained MCL in his right knee, and it was obvious the offense missed him. The Tigers were led by 13 points from Jabari Brown.
“It was really difficult (without Bowers) and it really affected us I thought at the start of the game,” Missouri coach Frank Haith said. “But hats off to Ole Miss — we just didn’t execute well.”
Missouri pulled to 41-33 with 16 minutes remaining, but couldn’t get any closer. The Rebels’ defense was suffocating for most of the night, forcing 19 turnovers. And it seemed like every time there was a loose ball, an Ole Miss player would emerge from the pile with possession.
“I don’t think they ever got in an offensive rhythm and that’s a tribute to how much effort our guys had defensively,” Kennedy said.
The convincing victory capped an impressive week to open SEC play. The Rebels beat Tennessee on the road on Wednesday.
“Right out of the chute we got challenged by a Tennessee team on the road and then we come back to one of the best teams in the country in our own building,” Kennedy said. “We just did what we were supposed to do. We protected home floor. If you have any aspirations of playing meaningful basketball in March, that’s what you have to do.”
The Tigers needed nearly seven minutes to score their first basket. Missouri shot just 11 of 33 (33 percent) in the first half.
Ole Miss wasn’t much better on offense early, shooting 38 percent from the field in the first half, but did enough to take a 31-22 lead into halftime. Derrick Millinghaus led the Rebels with 8 first half points, including a pair of 3-pointers.
Henderson scored 32 points in the Rebels’ SEC opening victory against Tennessee, but it was obvious that Mizzou had reviewed that game tape, and Tiger defenders were draped all over him every possession. He made just 2 of 8 attempts from 3-point range.
But Holloway picked up the offensive slack, constantly slashing into the lane and finishing with his left hand over taller Missouri defenders. He’s the only player in the SEC averaging a double-double and he had another complete game on Saturday, adding eight rebounds, four steals and a blocked shot.
Even without Bowers, Missouri figured to make some sort of run with Earnest Ross, Alex Oriakhi, and Phil Pressey all scoring in double figures this season. But the shots never fell on a consistent basis.
Keion Bell scored 11 points and Pressey added 10 for the Tigers.
It was a physical game and Ole Miss consistently won the interior battles. The Rebels had 20 attempts from the free throw line, making 15, while Missouri was just 5 of 6.
“We were way too timid and missed a lot of (close shots),” Haith said. “With just 49 points, our offense was really poor.”
Ole Miss is not known for raucous basketball crowds, but Tad Smith Coliseum was sold out and loud for this one. The Rebels are 7-19 against ranked opponents under Kennedy.
“It gives us a lot of confidence,” Holloway said. “We feel like we can play with anybody now.”