Ole Miss concludes non-conference play with 92-58 win over South Alabama
OXFORD, Miss. – Ole Miss has one more home game left in the month of December–a game that will mark the beginning of Southeastern Conference play.
But before the Rebels take on No. 6 Kentucky next Thursday night, they first needed to take care of business against South Alabama.
Ole Miss (9-3, 0-0 SEC) wrapped up its non-conference schedule in style, defeating the Jaguars, 92-58, inside The Pavilion Thursday night. Sebastian Saiz led the Rebels with 23 points and 16 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season, the 16th of his career.
Deandre Burnett added 21 points in 22 minutes of action. Justas Furmanavicius finished with 13, and Cullen Neal notched 11. Eleven different players played for Ole Miss, and that is a definite plus as far as head coach Andy Kennedy is concerned.
“We got a lot of different guys minutes, which I thought was important. Breein Tyree continues to get better and better. I thought, maybe, Cullen had his best floor game of the season, making plays in the open floor. Defensively, we are getting better and better.
“I think we are improving. Boy, it’s time to improve because it’s going to get real for us pretty quickly.”
Head Coach Andy Kennedy
South Alabama (7-6, 0-0 Sun Belt) did what it could early in the second half to keep its small fan base behind the visitors’ bench interested, going on a 7-0 run to cut the deficit to 55-43.
But the Rebels came storming back and squashed any hopes of an upset the Jaguars might have had. Ole Miss went on a 33-7 run to go up 88-52 with 4:37 left in the game.
Rebels take twenty-point lead into halftime
In the first half, there were two stories: One, the Rebels found ways to score. Two, the Jaguars missed almost everything they threw up.
In fact, South Alabama went 7:24 without a basket, and in the midst of the opponents’ slump, Ole Miss went on an 11-0 run over 6:14 to go up 21-8. Two possessions later, Georgi Boyanov’s layup would end the Jaguars’ scoring slump, but South Alabama still trailed by double figures (24-10).
Furmanavicius and Neal took advantage of the Jaguars’ offensive woes, scoring 11 points each to lead the Rebels in the first half. Neal scored 11 of Ole Miss’ final 18 points to give the Rebels the 46-26 cushion at halftime.
The Rebels had 23 assists on 29 out of 59 made field goals, eliciting praise from Kennedy.
“When you have 23 assists off 29 made baskets, didn’t turn it over, plus-15 on the glass, that’s a pretty solid all-around effort.”
South Alabama shot 28.8 percent (19 of 66) from the field. Nick Stover led the Jaguars in scoring with 17 points. Boyanov, the team’s leading scorer, finished with 10 on 4 of 11 shooting.
Kennedy turns his focus to the sixth-ranked Wildcats
“Man, they’re really good,” Kennedy said about Kentucky. “They’re incredibly athletic, not a lot of weak spots on the roster. They can score, score, score. I have obviously watched them as a fan. I watched them last night as a matter of fact.”
Kennedy will spend the next few days focusing on what the Rebels need to do in order to defeat the Wildcats.
“…I have really kind of dug into ‘What’s the best chance we have? How do we need to play?’ That’s really where I will spend my energy for the next three or four days.”
Kennedy on preparing for Kentucky
Ole Miss improved to 6-2 in night games that begin at 6:00 p.m. or later. The Rebels are also now 4-1 this season in games played in December, improving to 3-0 in Thursday games. When playing in the white jerseys, the Rebels are 8-1 on the season. Ole Miss is 14-3 all-time inside The Pavilion.
One common opponent
Ole Miss and South Alabama have had one common opponent this season in Middle Tennessee State. The Jaguars lost 67-55 at home to the Blue Raiders on Dec. 3, while the Rebels lost to MTSU, 77-62, in Oxford back on Nov. 30.
Ole Miss hosts No. 6 Kentucky on Dec. 29 (7:00 p.m., ESPN2) in the SEC-opener for both programs. The Wildcats are coming off a 73-70 loss to their in-state rival, No. 10 Louisville. The reigning SEC champions lead the series 104-13 and have won the last seven against the Rebels.
South Alabama hosts Troy (7:05 p.m.) to open up league play in the Sun Belt Conference.