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Ole Miss Handles Middle Tennessee, 70-51, in Reunion Game

Ole Miss Handles Middle Tennessee, 70-51, in Reunion Game

If it weren’t for 2020, the Wednesday night matchup between Ole Miss and Middle Tennessee had everything a fan could’ve asked for.

Beginning a mini-road stretch for the Rebels, Coach Davis came back to Murfreesboro to coach another game at the Murphy Center. However, instead of the fairy-tale homecoming with a full crowd happy to see the man who brought success to Blue Raider nation, there was scarce crowd due to COVID-19 restrictions.

It was different but good to be back. Lot of good memories in this gym.

Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis

It wasn’t just a night for Coach Davis, though, as Ole Miss senior leader Devontae Shuler got to square off in a personal match-up against his brother Dontrell Shuler. It’s the first time the Shuler brothers have shared the court but played on opposite sides. The Shuler family was ecstatic about the matchup, with their mother Donella taking to Twitter to show off the meeting between the bros.

Game Recap

We’re starting to see a bit of trend in the tendencies of this Ole Miss team. They play with intensity on the defensive end, looking to jump lanes, add pressure and force you to make quick mistakes. The interior focus has been their biggest strength so far, and on Wednesday night we saw more of the same in the Rebels win on the road.

Davis and Co. forced the Blue Raiders into 19 turnovers on the night while also holding them to 30% shooting from the field. The Blue Raiders were led by Shuler and Jordan Davis. Ole Miss’s stifling defense held the latter of the two to six points on 1-11 shooting. Dontrell Shuler led the Raiders in scoring with 19 points on 7-17 while making some tough shots.

This has a chance to become of the best defensive teams I’ve ever coached. Tonight, I thought it was the most consistent…Our effort and following the game plan has been good so far.

Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis 

On the other side, Ole Miss spread the ball around with all five starters scoring in double figures. Coach Davis praised the Rebels saying, “It was the most balanced game we’ve played in our four games.”

The leading scorer of the contest for the Rebels was Romello White who finished the game with 16 points on 7-8 shooting, while showing an array of post moves that should have Rebel fans giddy. White also added six rebounds and two steals to his tally.

While the younger Shuler brother may have had the better scoring performance it was Devontae Shuler who will be getting the last laugh that comes with the most important stat — the win. While Devontae did not have the best scoring night of the season, he still managed to make life tough for his brother getting a couple steals and netting 10 points on the evening. He also managed to have one of the nastiest assists you’ll see this season in transition.

Again Coach Davis went deep to his bench in this one, going twelve deep (likely to have been thirteen deep if Khadim Sy was healthy). The Rebels got some solid minute contributions from Austin Crowley, who has taken on a role as a sparkplug, Robert Allen, Matthew Murrell and Sammy Hunter. Murrell added five points and five rebounds in the contest while making a nice contested jumper late in the shot clock.

The Rebels ended the night shooting an impressive 55% from the field while scoring 46 of their 70 points in the paint. They weren’t without their faults as the outside shooting woes continued. Devontae Shuler and Jarkel Joiner were the only Rebels to make a shot beyond the arc as the team went a combined 2-14. It’s still early, so the shooting slump isn’t a huge cause for concern yet but things should pick up as they enter a flow of consistently practicing and playing.

Two Early Season Observations

#1The Romello White Effect

At first glance one may look at Romello White’s stats and be drawn to his gaudy FG%.  If you’ve watched an Ole Miss game, you will know that he is a major factor for the team this year, but if you’re like me I wanted to know how much better is he in the red and blue than he was as a Sun Devil. My initial perception of White was a low-post, old school bruiser of a big man who got a bunch of garbage buckets and focused on eating the boards.

I have said it in prior articles, however, the biggest surprise to me about White is his rim protection.  Courtesy of sportsreference.com, I noticed that this year White has a block percentage of 9.9 thus far this season. That means while he is on the floor, nearly 10% of the opposing FGs that teams shoot, he has blocked. Blocks aren’t the only thing to judge for rim protection, though, as he routinely bullies opposing players away from the rim and his stingy defense forces players to alter their shot — creating a lot of misses.

The second advanced statistic I looked at is how he impacts winning. Watching a game, it’s easy to see the impact he has but putting a number to that is a job for someone else to compute. The WS/40 (wins shared per 40 minutes) metric does exactly that.  Looking at Romello’s numbers, he has nearly doubled his percentage since arriving at Ole Miss. The average for this is .100, and White is posting a .292 in this category, good for second on the team (Shuler .376). Granted, it’s still a fairly small sample size, and the number is very likely to go down, but I compared it to the 2018-19 roster where the highest WS/40 metric was owned by Terence Davis and was a .150.

#2 – The Rise Of Luis Rodriquez

With so many new faces on this team, it seems that the impact of a guy who has been around the program for a while has flown under the radar. Two years ago Luis Rodriquez played a little over six minutes, and last season we were primed for a Luis Rodriquez breakout, but his sophomore campaign was cut short after a broken foot. Now, he has finally gotten the opportunity to play his game.

It’s easy to see why Coach Davis likes a guy like Rodriquez; he has a little bit of everything in his game. Rodriquez is averaging 10 points per game, 7.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists prior to tonight’s contest. He is leading the team in rebounds, while being second in assists and third in points.

The most impressive part of Rodriquez’s game is the hustle he brings. It comes in every facet of the game and when he makes a mistake, he hustles to make up for it. While he has made a sizeable contribution to the stat sheet, hustle doesn’t have a spot on it. Take a look at the play below:

A lot of players would have made an effort to try and get back on this play, but Luis actually makes a play on the ball here. While there was a foul for body contact, the effort alone shows what he brings to this team. This is the kind of play coaches love and it keeps you on the floor. He made a mistake and ended up with a foul, but he made a gutsy recovery and made MTSU earn the two rather than making it easy for the Blue Raiders. While others are waiting for someone else to step up for the Rebels, we should take a moment to praise Luis for what he’s doing.

TIPINS

  • Ole Miss won its third straight game in the series to take the all-time lead 7-6.
  • The Rebels moved to 4-0 for the third time in the last five seasons.
  • Ole Miss won its first road game of a season since the 2015-16 campaign, snapping a four-game losing streak in road openers.
  • All five starters scored in double figures for the first time since Feb. 29, 2020 vs. Vanderbilt.
  • The Rebels held a 48-16 advantage in the paint.
  • Ole Miss shot a season high 54.9 percent from the field, going 28 for 51.
  • Head coach Kermit Davis faced his former school Middle Tennessee for the first time in Murfreesboro.
  • Devontae Shuler faced off against his brother Dontrell; Devontae scored 10 points, while Dontrell had a Blue Raider high 19.
  • KJ Buffen tallied season highs in points (11) and rebounds (7).
  • Jarkel Joiner scored 10 points, his most as a Rebel.

(Tipins are courtesy of Ole Miss Athletics)

Looking Ahead

After their first road game of the season, the Rebels remain away from home with a matchup against Dayton (Dec. 19). The battle with the Flyers tips off at 1:30 p.m. CT on NBCSN.

About The Author

TJ Oxley

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.

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