Ole Miss slides past UT-Martin 86-83 in season opener
OXFORD, Miss. – Andy Kennedy expected Tennessee-Martin to keep his Ole Miss team on its heels for the entire 40 minutes in the first game of the 2016-17 season. Kennedy was just hopeful the Rebels would find a way to survive.
And survive was exactly what Ole Miss did.
The Rebels’ defense contested Jacolby Mobley’s three-pointer in the right corner as the ball bounced off the back of the rim as time expired, giving Ole Miss (1-0) the 86-83 victory over the Skyhawks (0-1) Friday night inside The Pavilion. It was the season opener for both programs.
(Click here for box score.)
The Rebels led 84-78 with 1:01 left in the game but couldn’t seem to find a way to put UT-Martin away.
Dante Bailey’s two foul shots, then a three from Matthew Butler, cut the Skyhawks’ deficit to 84-83 with 49 seconds to go. Deandre Burnett’s two foul shots with 10 seconds gave Ole Miss some wiggle room but not enough to feel safe.
“No question. Dre’s going to make them. He’s got to get better in other areas. I need him to do more than just put the ball in the basket.”
Head coach Andy Kennedy on Burnett, who went 10 for 10 from the free throw line
Burnett led the Rebels with 23 points on 5 of 11 shooting. Terence Davis added 19 points and six rebounds. Rasheed Brooks had 12; Cullen Neal provided 10.
But scoring wasn’t enough to starve off UT-Martin. The Rebels had to get a stop on defense to prevent overtime, and Kennedy held his mouth wide open as Mobley’s launched his three-point shot attempt at the buzzer.
Butler led the Skyhawks with 25 points. Mobley added 17. Kedar Edwards and Chandler Martinez provided 11 points.
“They’re going to win a lot of games, man. They’ve got a good team. “
Andy Kennedy on UT-Martin
Ole Miss had to win its season-opener without senior forward Sebastian Saiz, who fouled out with under six minutes left in the game. Saiz finished with five points.
“Sebas, who I’ve made no bones about needs to be the anchor of this year’s team, was a complete no-show simply because of fouls,” Kennedy said about Saiz, who chatted with the referees while being restrained by one of his teammates. “And that’s his fault and our fault.
“He can’t be a no-show.”
UT-Martin builds a first-half lead
At one point, UT-Martin built a lead to 40-32 late in the first half off a Fatodd Lewis layup. The Rebels had difficulties, at moments, running their offense as the Skyhawks suffocated Ole Miss with their half-court press and 2-3 zone defense.
Both programs traded scores for most of the first half, but UT-Martin did a good job of spreading the basketball around before taking a single shot at the basket.
As a team, UT-Martin shot 50 percent in the first half, 37 percent for the game.
Ole Miss had 20 turnovers last week against Morehouse College and surpassed that number against the Skyhawks. The Rebels had 24 turnovers.
“I thought it was just carelessness,” Kennedy said.
Ole Miss is 3-0 all-time against UT-Martin.
Rebels will host UMass on Monday (6:00 p.m., SEC Network).