Many shots were downed and the Rebel roundballers sank some threes as well. With a 96-82 victory over the No. 19 Razorbacks in Fayetteville, Ole Miss gained its first road win against a ranked opponent since beating LSU in Baton Rouge back in 2003. Ah, memories.
Speaking of ancient history: the last time Ole Miss played a basketball game in Fayetteville, they lost 110-80 (you read that right), and Marshall Henderson only scored 15 points. Well, please say hello to your 2015 Rebels, who like to share three-point privileges with everyone: Snoop White, Jarvis Summers, Stefan Moody and Martavious Newby all dropped buckets from out in the county, and my-oh-my did they play some string music.
Ole Miss never really lost control of this game and to be sure they dictated play from wire to wire. The Razorbacks’ Bobby Portis, Michael Qualls and Ky Madden came to scrap, but without any real support, their combined 67 points languished beneath the Rebel onslaught. Ole Miss brought the noise on both sides of the court.
With a big road win and conference play now begun in earnest, what have we learned about this Rebel basketball team?
1. Say it with me: perimeter shooting.
Ole Miss has gotta shoot the three. Against Kentucky and Arkansas, your roundballers shot over 52 percent beyond the arc, while the LSU loss saw an abysmal 22 percent three-point night. The Rebs capitalized on a Razorback press that left holes open all over the floor. Snoop and Jarvis especially thrived on some inside-outside basketball, and their four splashes from three-point land recharged Ole Miss’ momentum throughout both halves. Moody also relaxed enough to sink a welcome pair of triples.
It should also be noted that, unlike LSU, Arkansas went full-court press more often than not, and the Rebel men responded well. Their mid-court passing was crisp, all told, which will suit them well against a Florida squad that likes to crowd both baselines.
2. The Rebs got to the gimme stripe.
With their free-throw percentage hovering around 79 percent, the Rebels rank first in the NCAA from freebie land. A 26-for-30 effort last night thus feels quietly soothing after Wednesday’s 12-for-16 showing against LSU. Fourteen more free-throw attempts against Arkansas? What? Shall we chalk it up to the refs? Nah. The Rebs' passing in transition and downright refusal to let things go in the paint accounts for much of their time at the stripe. And besides, eight of nine Rebels who saw action last night took free throws, while good-samaritan Terence Smith tossed in seven points from the field and kept his nose clean all the while. Let’s give Terence lunch-pail of the game, shall we?
3. M.J. Rhett is no longer new to the party; he is the party.
Look at this dude. After a 15-point, seven-rebound night against LSU, my man dialed it back for six points and five rebounds last night. But still, these numbers don’t capture M.J.’s sheer maniacal presence on the court. Watch him scream and stare and beat his chest and breathe fire and gesticulate without apology – the guy is fun to watch play basketball. Given a shred more freedom yesterday, Sir Rhett might have ripped a hoop out of Bud Walton Arena and taken it home for car parts. As we learned from the SEMO game, the Rebels will explode when M.J. explodes, and his 6.6 points and 5.2 rebounds per game occlude the man’s animus in competition. I wanna blast my head through some Rebar just thinking about him.
What a damn fun game that was. And shan’t we forget, Dwight Coleby turned in a hushed 12 points and 10 rebounds, which yet again earns him unmentioned-sixth-man credentials this week.
Ole Miss travels to Georgia on January 20th and hosts Florida on the 24th. Both teams look beatable, and if the Rebels can maintain the current posture, their SEC tournament chances ain't half bad.