Tennessee was certainly smarting from the loss of Kevin Punter Saturday as Ole Miss steamrolled the Volunteers in Knoxville for an 83-60 win. The Rebels end the 2015-16 regular season at 20-11 (10-8 SEC) and carry a two-game winning streak into the SEC Tournament in Nashville next week.
Five whole minutes of SEC basketball transpired without a single point being scored in the first half. Further, Tennessee completed a 15-minute stretch of basketless participation to round out a 22-point half, which is their lowest scoring frame on the season. After a 43-point night against Mississippi State, Stefan Moody tallied two early fouls and sat the last 14 minutes of the opening period as the Rebels carried a hilarious 31-22 lead into recess.
Sebastian Saiz thus stepped up big time with Moody on the bench scoring 12 and raking down seven rebounds in the first half. The second half started much better with Moody and Anthony Perez knocking down a pair of back-to-back threes, and from there Ole Miss rolled well through the end of the game.
Here are three takeaways from Saturday's proceedings at Rocky Top.
1. Undersized Tennessee couldn't handle the Ole Miss defense.
Andy Kennedy called up virtually the same defense all damn day in Knoxville, and it worked admirably throughout the afternoon. The Rebs' 1-3-1 high trap wrecked Tennessee in transition, and on those occasions when the Vols managed to squeak through, Ole Miss fell easily enough back into their 2-3 zone. Tennessee's size doomed them from the start, which disallowed any real inside threat to the basket. 15 Volunteer turnovers are also never conducive to successful basketball, either.
2. With Moody in foul trouble, everybody else came to play.
Especially Saiz and Martavious Newby. Good grief, the vets of last year's tournament team turned in 23 and 10 points and 11 and 10 rebounds, respectively, the first time both have reached a double-double in the same game all season. Tomasz Gielo turned in a respectable 16 points and seven rebounds. Saiz was certainly the hero of the day, however, and Andy Kennedy is fortunate to have the Spanish menace rounding out his fitness heading into tournament week.
Terence Davis turned in impressive minutes when he was out there, and hell, even Jake Coddington grabbed a steal to end the game.
3. Off to Nashville we go.
Game analyst Joe Dean Jr. mentioned that Andy Kennedy believes with a Rebel run into the SEC Tournament final, Ole Miss could pull off a backdoor entrance to the Big Dance this year. Both of those scenarios are highly unlikely, but a mid-seed NIT appearance ain't so far fetched, and considering the year these Basketbears have had, that'd feel like a refreshing success. The Rebs' schedule and performance in pivotal matchups precluded any sort of impressive RPI ranking, while injuries to Moody, Saiz and Newby disrupted their bench flow during the heart of their SEC table.
At any rate, the conference tournament kicks off this week, and the Rebels should expect a No. 6 seed, which could pit them against none other than Tennessee again in the second round.