Ole Miss' 82-72 win over Georgia Southern felt a bit like its season opening win over Northwestern State. Once again, they struggled to distance themselves during the middle goings before pulling away down the stretch. At the end of the day, Andy Kennedy's squad is 2-0.
Ole Miss dominated the game in the paint, but hot perimeter shooting kept Georgia Southern hanging around for longer than probably should have. They threw up 35 3-pointers, hitting 11 of them and outscoring the Rebs 33 to 6 from behind the arc. Consecutive treys from Jake Allsmiller helped cut what was once a 12-point Ole Miss lead to 3 points with about eight minutes left in the game, but the Rebs answered with 7 unanswered points (all of which came from the free throw line) to give themselves some cushion down the stretch.
A couple of dumb turnovers and a stupid foul (looking at you, Anthony Perez) had this a two-possession game with less than a minute left, but Stefan Moody free throws kept them at bay. Moody picked up 15 of his 22 points from the charity stripe while going just 3-of-12 from the field.
The difference in the game was ... Ole Miss getting to the free throw line.
A few days after I criticized this team for settling for outside shots in the season opener against Northwestern State, the Rebs came out on Monday with the an obvious game plan to drive to the basket and draw contact. They shot an insane 53 free throws and hit 40 of them, which explains how they put up 82 points while shooting 36.4 percent from the field.
The MVP was ... Sebastian Saiz.
The big man posted a 24-point, 17-rebound night and now has as many double-doubles in two games this season as he did during his first two years in Oxford combined. I know it's early and the competition has been weak, but Saiz looks well on his way to becoming the all-SEC player that Andy Kennedy needs him to be.