Ole Miss ended its two-game skid Tuesday night in Oxford after destroying Mississippi Sate, 88-61. Sebastian Saiz and Terence Davis led all Rebel scorers with 17 and 18 points, respectively. This was Saiz’s 15th double-double of the year and 24th in his career.
The night’s proceedings commenced well enough, with Saiz opening the scoring on an offensive rebound for bucket and State just sorta throwing away their first possession. The Bulldogs turned over their next possession as well, so that Ben Howland was howling for a timeout just 90 seconds into the game. They soon tightened up, though, to pull the score to 11-9 at the first media timeout.
The middle of the frame saw both teams trade uneven blows, with Ole Miss taking a 25-16 advantage by the 10-minute mark. Saiz rebounded well, and Rasheed Brooks found himself immediately involved coming off the bench. He drew harm for two free throws, then played string music thrice from the left wing for a triplet of threes.
Brooks had 13 at the half, Saiz had 11, and Terence Davis and Deandre Burnett both had nine. Also, Davis went yam all over State’s interior for a thunderous slamdown.
The Rebs rode a 21-5 run over the opening frame’s last six minutes and went into recess with a 51-33 advantage.
State sprinted out of the gate in the second half, ripping off a 9-4 run that had Andy Kennedy shaking his head before the under-16 timeout. Saiz picked up an offensive foul, absolutely no one could connect from the field, and stupid fouls kept sending Bulldogs to the the gimme stripe.
After a timeout and some AK harangue, however, the Basketbears cruised out to a comprehensive W. Here are three takeaways from the big blowout in Oxford.
The Rebs played strong transition defense.
Andy Kennedy bemoaned his defense’s execution down the stretch against Baylor, citing foul trouble and missed assignments in the 1-3-1 and 2-3 zones as reason for the Rebs’ ultimate failure last Saturday. Well, Tuesday’s effort produced 23 damn points off of turnovers, and Ole Miss consistently harried State through the midcourt. It also helps when none other than Marcanvis Hymon is tossing your trash out of the lane.
The Rebs’ midcourt dominance paid off in the halfcourt, forcing State into awful looks throughout the second half and driving them deep into their shot clocks. Good stuff.
Ole Miss can grab the offensive rebound.
By which we mean that Saiz can grab the offensive rebound. Coming into this game, the Rebs were ranked 102nd in offensive rebounds with 256 on the year. On Tuesday, Ole Miss out-rebounded State 15-5 on the Bulldogs’ end, and outscored them 22-5 on second chance points. Saiz is quietly becoming a force of nature inside, especially on the offensive glass, where his agility serves him well against the lumbering oaks around the conference.
Welcome back, Rasheed Brooks.
Yes, Saiz scored 17. And yes, Davis scored 18. And yes, Burnett scored 16. But we shan’t understate Brooks’ 15-point contribution not two weeks out from a seizure episode mid-game against Tennessee. He leapt into the fray early, drawing contact on a drive to the cup, and followed that up with three bombs from out in the yard to notch 13 points in the first half.
He stayed quieter in the second half, but he stilled logged 23 minutes and has clearly become the emotional center of this club. Tuesday’s 15 points were his most since downing 15 against Kentucky back on Dec. 29., and it’s encouraging to watch him slip so seamlessly back into AK’s rotation. You’re the man, Sheed.
The Rebs are next in action Saturday at Vanderbilt, who’d have a tough time hanging with even Missouri currently.