Last year's Jack Jones Classic in Southaven, Miss. went poorly for Rick Ray and his SEMO Redhawks as Ole Miss rocked and rolled their way to an 82-51 win on an otherwise quiet December evening. That game, the first meeting between the Rebs and 'Hawks, went untelevised and unheralded but for Erik Sean's lonely play-by-play on some outpost of the ESPN Radio Network.
2015's installment of the Ole Miss-SEMO clash ended in similar fashion Saturday as the Rebs polished off a 75-64 win in Cape Girardeau, Mo. to send the Redhawks down to 0-7 on the season. Stefan Moody lay dormant for much of the first half but cobbled together 19 points in the second period on his way to a 28 points, 8-of-21 night. Tomasz Gielo added 10 tallies of his own, and lanky Iberian pop-phenom Sebastian Saiz raked off 11 rebounds.
Ole Miss shot around 35 percent from the floor to SEMO's 41 percent, but the Rebs let fly 24 more times and, coupled with the Redhawks' seven second-chance points to Ole Miss' 17, that made all the difference. Here are three takeaways from the second straight Rebel win over SEMO.
Stefan Moody regained the hot hand we've all been waiting for.
Not since back on Nov. 20 has Moody shot so well, especially from out in the yard. In that game against Towson, Stefan splashed down five times, while against SEMO he connected on four parabolas, three of which came right in a row late-ish into the second half. It's refreshing to see him heat up like that, especially since he was shooting from the dribble for all but one of his threes.
Given the personnel shifts and reallocation of duties across the roster, Moody is still this squad's sparkplug, and if he's going off that opens up others on the floor to get to work. Andy Kennedy might describe 28 points as a "ho hum" outing for Stef, but often the when can trump the how many.
The defense bent but didn't break.
Speaking of the when, SEMO put up a mini run late in the second half -- pulling to 50-48 -- but the Rebs just outright denied them the possessions from then on, and the ones that Rick Ray's guys did have didn't end well. Antonius Cleveland fought valiantly for his career-high 25 points, but a lopsided 53-36 rebounding margin in favor of Ole Miss proved insurmountable.
Certainly the offensive rebounds disparity stings the worst for SEMO. Marcanvis Hymon ripped down 14 boards in addition to Saiz's 11, while the Rebs out-rebounded the Redhawks 19-5 on their own end. That the garbage collection game skewed in Ole Miss' favor is directly linked to the bigger platoons that Andy Kennedy has been marshaling lately.
Andy Kennedy drinks Rick Ray's milkshake.
When Ray was doing whatever he did in Starkville, Kennedy maintained a 5-2 stranglehold on Mississippi State. This preeminence in the state worked to AK's advantage on the recruiting trail, and now that Ray is steering the ship at SEMO he just can't get the better of old Randy still. Buck up, Rick, conference play hasn't even begun yet.