Given a few days of rest, the Ole Miss hoopmen returned to the Tad Pad with significantly more zest in their stride Wednesday, leading from the game's second possession until the closing bell to round out a 68-59 win over Georgia State. The Panthers played something of a Cindarella role in last year's Big Dance, pulling a ridiculous upset of Baylor in the NCAA Tournament's second round, so an early season win against a March Madness-seasoned squad feels satisfying this close to the holidays.
The Rebels' first 10 or so minutes of play was excellent, with Stefan Moody, Tomasz Gielo and Anthony Perez all dropping threes, and riding the back of an eight point run, the netmen stretched to a nine point lead. Moody soon went cold, however, and struggled against the Panthers' high zone to end the half on 0-5 shooting. All the Rebels, in fact, suffered from chilliness for stretches, going scoreless for a full four and a half minutes deep in the second half. Things picked up, however, and under the staid leadership of Moody's 21 points, Ole Miss locked down in garbage time.
Anthony Perez was more engaged on Wednesday, and so it was particularly upsetting when, early in the second half, he went under for a reverse layup only to catch Jeremy Hollowell's elbow on the follow through and hit the deck. It appeared he was bleeding and dazed, so he soon earned escort to the locker room to get checked out. Let's hope AP's alright, especially since he was working on a season-high night with seven points and three rebounds.
Tomasz Gielo was having a great night, raking in 13 points and six rebounds, until he picked up his fourth personal foul with about 13 minutes left in the second half. He returned for all of 30 seconds before promptly fouling out on a questionable contact penalty against the hirsute T.J. Shipes. With Gielo's and Perez's big bodies thus barred from participation, Georgia State came back at the Basketbears with a vengeance in the second half.
Still, though, with good defense and solid contributions from Martavious Newby, Rasheed Brooks and Marcanvis Hymon, the Rebels picked up a quality win over a previously unbeaten tournament contender.
Unbeaten teams remaining: 58 (Sorry, Georgia St.).— Ken Pomeroy (@kenpomeroy) November 26, 2015
The defense looked a lot better.
Wednesday saw Andy Kennedy call a more eclectic defensive game. The 2-3 and 1-3-1 zones worked well for the most part -- the lone exception occurring late in the second half when Georgia State earned three full shot clocks on a single possession -- disrupting enough outside-inside passes to flatten the Panthers' attack down under. This caused a number of Georgia State flyers in from the wing, and they just couldn't get enough to drop in their favor. Kudos too to Sebastian Saiz's court awareness for drawing a handful of control fouls down around the newly expanded restricted arc.
The MVP was Stefan Moody
Hymon and Saiz both threw in seven points and attacked the glass with six and eight rebounds, respectively, but diminutive Stefan carried the hoopsters through the second half. He wasn't particularly hot from the field (he hit just two of his eight three-pointers), but he knocked down seven of his eight free throws and did this:
So great stuff, Rebels. In the program's first meeting with Georgia State, you showed 'em who's boss, and along the way you earned tomorrow's turkey. Happy Thanksgiving, y'all.