Ole Miss outlasts Georgia Southern 82-72 behind Saiz’s second double-double
Power forward Sebastian Saiz led the Rebels on both ends of the court Monday night against Georgia Southern, exhibiting solid post moves with his back to the basket and showing alertness as the basketball was coming off the rim or backboard.
And Saiz felt great about getting a lot of touches and not having to pass it up much to the guards on the wing. He finished with 24 points and 17 rebounds as Ole Miss defeated Georgia Southern, 82-72, inside the Tad Smith Coliseum to start the season 2-0 for the second-consecutive season. Saiz became the first Ole Miss player since Murphy Holloway (February, 2013) to have a double-double in two straight games. Saiz also became the first Rebel since Holloway (March, 2013) to pull down 15-plus rebounds.
Rebels’ head coach Andy Kennedy wants the 6-foot-9 forward to be more of a demanding big instead of playing conservative at times. “I want him to demand it more,” said Kennedy, who improved to 123-31 inside Tad Smith Coliseum at the University of Mississippi.
He has gotten a little stronger in his base where he can hold position and he’s gotten where he can post to his size. He’s a big kid. We are just trying to give it to him where he can play to his strength, wide base, play over the top of people. I thought we did a really good job early in that. We got away from it a little bit.
Head coach Andy Kennedy on Sebastian Saiz
Sun Belt’s Georgia Southern (1-1) closed the gap on the Rebels, 75-68, after a three from Devonte Boykins, who finished 2-for-6 from beyond the 3-point line. But Ole Miss quickly expanded its lead back up to 10 with two late, game-sealing free throws from Anthony Perez.
Rebels make late first-half run to take 46-35 lead into halftime
Stefan Moody, the Rebels’ returning leading scorer, was not as prolific as he normally is with baskets in the first half for Ole Miss, going 1-of-4 from the floor for five points. However, late in the first half Moody scored the team’s last five points to give the Rebels the 46-35 lead at the break.
Moody finished with 22 points and made the best of his scoring opportunity from the free throw line, going 15-for-17.
Moody’s late points were part of the Rebels’ 9-0 run to end the half, but in the beginning, the Rebels had difficulty holding on to the lead with Georgia Southern only a couple steps behind. Devonte Boykins and Jason Burrell drained back-to-back 3-pointers to close the gap to 35-31. Coye Simmons’ layup had the gap even tighter at 37-35.
The Eagles went on a short 6-0 run, but couldn’t capitalize on it, allowing Ole Miss to push the lead back up. Marcanvis Hymon’s dunk, then a jumper by Tomasz Gielo had the Rebels up 41-35. Then, Moody took over after the slow start.
Georgia Southern went scoreless in the final 2:30, going 0-of-4 from the floor. Yet, Kennedy did not seem completely thrilled with his team’s defensive performance.
“I wish we were tougher; I wish we guarded,” Kennedy said during a run on of sentences about his what he wanted from his players.
Moody and the Rebels pick up pace in second half
Moody continued his hot scoring into the second half, knocking down a 3-pointer from the top of the key, then followed with one free throw. As soon as Moody slowed his pace, the Eagles were able to make some noise on offense with back-to-back 3’s from Jake Allsmiller and a lone free throw from Ike Smith to get within 59-56.
Smith led Georgia Southern with 14 points. Mike Hughes and Boykins each had 13. As a team, the Eagles shot 31.3 percent from the floor.
Ole Miss quickly responded with the 7-0 run, all free throws, to push its lead back up to 10, and Georgia Southern wouldn’t get any closer than eight as the Rebels’ defense forced the Eagles to uncomfortable offensive sets and 12 turnovers.
With 11 or 12 scholarship student-athletes who are freshmen, redshirt freshmen or sophomores (92 percent), Georgia Southern has the highest percentage of underclassmen on its current roster of the 345 NCAA Division 1 squads. Liberty (91 percent), Ohio State (85 percent), Fairleigh Dickinson (85 percent) and Wyoming (80 percent) round out the top-5.