Ole Miss Defense Clips Seahawks as Rebels defeat UNCW, 78-58
OXFORD, Miss. — Head coach Kermit Davis and Ole Miss (2-0) notched their second win of the season as they took down UNC Wilmington (3-3) by a score of 78-58 to remain undefeated after Saturday in front of a 10% capacity crowd at Craddock Court inside the Pavilion.
(Click here for box score.)
The Rebels’ duo of Romello White and Devontae Shuler stole the show, combining for 38 of the team’s 78. White would be the physical inside presence that was needed as he finished with 20 points, 6 rebounds, and two blocks. Shuler would find his rhythm in the second en route to tallying 18 points and six assists.
Luis Rodriquez would earn his first Ole Miss double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds. For UNCW it would be Ty Gadsden who finished as the leading man
Ole Miss entered the contest 1-0, following an 80-45 win over Jackson State on Thursday, while head coach Takayo Siddle’s UNCW squad was entering their sixth contest of the season.
The big change for the Davis’ squad going into the game was the insertion of Romello White into the starting lineup for his first time as a Rebel. He replaced Khadim Sy who would be in the first group of substitutions.
First half recap
The first half of the contest could best be described as both scrappy and sloppy. The game had a large feel-out period where both squads were testing the waters to get to know each other’s style of play. There were some bad post feeds that turned into quick turnovers for Ole Miss, and the Rebels struggled to find the basket for the first nine minutes of the contest. But they found a way to pick things up as they took a 38-18 lead at the half.
To frustrate Ole Miss, UNCW played a smaller lineup to start that would apply constant pressure to the Rebel guards. They threw a variety of things at Ole Miss, such as doubling any post feed immediately, showing different looks both man and zone, and pressing in the full and half court.
Ole Miss’ defense continued to be pesky, as well, but more emphasis was put on individual defense as the Seahawks’ offense thrives on one-on-one matchups in a five-out setting.
The Rebels looked to Romello White to be a big factor and the big man delivered early on by going 5-for-5 in the first half and finishing with 13 points and 4 rebounds in the period. White would be the man that broke down the UNCW defense as he finished down low time after time.
Second half action
The second half saw UNCW heat up a bit as they began to hit shots on the outside as Jaylen Sims began to knock down a couple, and the Ole Miss lead was cut to 17 with 10:55.
While a three-point change in deficit doesn’t seem like much, it was enough for Coach Davis to call a timeout to let the Rebels know his thoughts.
The Seahawks’ full court pressure would cause fits for the Ole Miss guards, causing three straight Rebel turnovers by midway through the second half. Austin Crowley would then be stripped of the ball on a drive to cut the lead down to 15.
But Ole Miss turned to none other than Romello White who notched a couple of key buckets around the 7:30-6:30 mark that halted the Seahawks’ comeback.
Devontae Shuler would hit his stride in the second, knocking down a couple of threes as a part of his 14-point, second-half performance. The Rebels would handle things down the stretch as they finished the game for the 20-point win.
Three Talking Points
1. The Rebel defense stifled the Seahawks
The Seahawks’ Jaylen Sims entered the contest third in the nation, averaging 27.0 points per game. UNCW wanted to space out the floor and have plenty of drive and kick opportunities. At the half, the Rebels had kept Sims to an 0-4 shooting mark and zero points. Ole Miss also held the Seahawks to just 30% shooting from the field for the first half and 41% for the game.
“I was proud of our win, rebounding the ball,” Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis said.
“(Romello White) was active on the boards and we took advantage of mismatches. I think we have a chance to be an elite defensive team before the year runs out.”
Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis
Romello White: "Everybody on our team is a great defender, real scrappy. Everybody plays really hard and really aggressive. We take it to each other in practice and it shows in games."
— The Rebel Walk (@TheRebelWalk) December 13, 2020
2. Game won on the interior
Since UNCW plays a smaller lineup, they looked to keep Ole Miss outside the paint. The Seahawks would often sink into the paint and have three to four players within a couple feet of the ball as it went inside. That is going to be how they can compete, but it wasn’t enough as this can open up drives and kicks for others.
Ole Miss found success in the paint, whether it was Romello White on the low post, a tip-in or a drive. The Rebels found a way to score in the paint and that made a huge difference in the game as the Red and Blue thrashed UNCW on the inside. The points-in-the-paint statistic tells the whole story as Ole Miss notched 50 points inside, while UNCW had 20.
“The rebounding #1 was the biggest thing and the biggest emphasis heading into this one” – Davis
3. Romello White is the Dark Knight
When UNCW frustrated the Rebels, it was usually White who brought things back under control for the Rebels. It was White who found a way to score in the interior when UNCW would sink everyone. And it was White who stopped the Seahawks’ runs with his bullying down low and willingness to play through contact.
We knew from the moment he took the floor against Jackson State that White was different, and today was just a building block from the last game. He owned the paint as he finished lobs, played with his back to the basket, and sent shots in the opposite direction.
Kermit on Romello: "He's got toughness. He's got great hands. He's got a good ability to really take his time in the post. He doesn't rush himself. I think he's a really good passer. He's got great experience. He's had big games before and those are going to keep coming."
— The Rebel Walk (@TheRebelWalk) December 13, 2020
I may not be getting the quote quite right, here, but Romello White is the hero Oxford deserves. But to me, he’s more than that. He’s something of a guardian, a rim protector. A Dark Knight. In my book, he deserves all the praise coming his way.
Ole Miss will play three games in the upcoming week, beginning with one more home game against Central Arkansas on Monday night. Then, the Rebels hit the road for Coach Davis’ homecoming match in Murfreesboro against Middle Tennessee State.Then, they head up to Ohio for a contest against Dayton on the 19th.
Central Arkansas: Despite the 0-3 start, Central Arkansas is a sneaky team who is more the victim of a tough schedule then an untalented group. The team is headlined by former BYU player Rylan Bergersen who is off to a hot start, averaging over 17 PPG on 56% shooting from the field and 54.5% from three. He also can be a menace on the defensive end while getting at least two steals per game.
The Bears did lose big man Hayden Koval to the transfer market after last season, and he was the biggest rim protector. So we could see another huge day inside for the Rebels.
On a side note, the Bears are coached by former Ole Miss player Anthony Boone who had his No. 41 number retired. The contest will be featured on SEC Network — which means I’ll have clips for you.
TJ Oxley is a current MBA student at Ole Miss after having earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Toledo. He currently covers college hoops and the NBA Draft for the Basketball Society as well as all things Ole Miss for The Rebel Walk.