First half performance
Andy Kennedy watched game film on last week’s Ole Miss’ 77-62 loss to Middle Tennessee State three times, calling the loss a “debacle” and saying the Rebels’ first-half performance was “terrible.” Facing a tough Memphis squad three days after MTSU, Kennedy felt his team couldn’t afford to lose two straight at home with a road trip to Virginia Tech on the horizon.
In the first half against the MTSU Blue Raiders, Ole Miss shot only 30 percent from the field, amounting to just 19 points.
In Saturday’s 85-77 win over Memphis, the Rebels responded with a much better first-half performance. Ole Miss led for the first 20 minutes, shooting 53.1 percent from the field and 50 percent from deep. The Rebels ran their offense through senior forward Sebastian Saiz, who led the team at the break with 13 points and seven rebounds, en route to his 13th career double-double (20 points, 16 rebounds).
After Kennedy showed the team just how miserable they were against MTSU, he watched as his Rebels displayed a greater sense of urgency against the pesky Tigers. Ole Miss recorded 13 assists on 17 made baskets, finished with only seven turnovers, and held a 20-15 advantage in the rebounding category.
Changes in starting lineup
For the first time this season, Kennedy went with a totally different starting lineup than fans had seen before. The starters against Memphis were: freshman Breein Tyree, sophomore Terence Davis, redshirt junior Deandre Burnett, junior Marcanvis Hymon and Saiz. Redshirt junior Cullen Neal, senior Rasheed Brooks, and junior Justas Furmanavicius came off the bench for the first time this season.
Kennedy’s tinkering with the rotation proved to be a positive for Ole Miss. The Rebels’ bench outscored Memphis’ bench 25-13. Neal had the most points coming off the bench with 12 and provided a spark for the offense late in the second half when Ole Miss needed to put the game away.
During the Rebels’ 20-3 run, Neal drained a three from the right wing to give Ole Miss its biggest lead of the second half (81-69). Neal went 4 for 7 from the field and recorded three assists.
Guarding the 3
Against MTSU, the Rebels allowed the Blue Raiders to shoot 56.3 percent (9 of 16) from beyond the arc. On Saturday, the Rebels did a much better job of guarding the three, limiting Memphis to six made three-pointers out of 19 attempts, for a 31.6 rate. The Tigers had come in to The Pavilion shooting 31.4 percent from three-point range. The Tigers made their shots from long range in spurts, hitting three in the first half and three in the second half.
Ole Miss improved its record to 6-1 when it plays in the white home jerseys. The Rebels improved to 4-1 at home this season and 3-0 in day games.
The Rebels travel to Virginia Tech on Sunday, December 11 with an 11:00 a.m. tipoff against the Hokies. (ESPNU). Virginia Tech (6-1) is 51st in RPI rankings and will host Maryland-Eastern Shore on Wednesday night before facing the Rebels this weekend. Ole Miss currently has an RPI of 37.
(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)