Hooooo boy, the RCR Slack channel was supremely anxious about this basketball game this afternoon, and we clearly had reason to be worried as Ole Miss was able to get by Georgia State, just barely with a 77-72 win.
Terence Davis led all Rebels in scoring Friday with 24 points but fouled out in the final minutes of the game. Memphis transfer Markel Crawford chipped in with 15 points including crucial free throws as time ran out for the Panthers in its upset bid in Oxford.
GSU jumped out to a 23-11 lead in the 1st half with efficient shooting from behind the arc while the Rebels struggled to find their rhythm. The Panthers opened the game shooting 5-of-8 from three-point range only to finish 8-of-21 from deep.
Davis was a spark plug in the 1st quarter, keeping the Rebels close and the crowd on its feet at times with defensive stops and was the only consistent offensive threat. His length on the perimeter showed in a highlight-inducing block, steal and fast break lay-up while the Rebels were down double digits.
The one criticism fans can most likely draw early on this season is that even though the Rebels sit at 3-0, there have been struggles in the first half of each game. Ole Miss trailed Louisiana in game one and only led low major Eastern Kentucky by six at halftime before producing an eight-point deficit to Georgia State Friday.
Divvying this game up into 10 minute quarters, you can see how Ole Miss absolutely dominated the first 10 minutes of the second half. This was the most pivotal stretch of play for the good guys as they took control of the game leading up to the final minutes of play.
A 22-10 margin to start the second half was imperative and ended up being the deciding factor in the game. And in the final 10 minutes, the half dozen or so free throws knocked down by Deandre Burnett and Crawford sealed the home victory.
Here is how those 10-minute stretches compare as the game went on:
- 1st 10 minutes: 15-25
- 2nd 10 minutes: 21-19 (36-44 score)
- 3rd 10 minutes: 22-10 (58-54 score)
- 4th 10 minutes: 19-18 (77-72 final score)
It all started and ended with defense in the second half for Ole Miss as the Panthers' shooting percentage fell to 45% to finish the game after rocking easily above 50% in the first half. Davis again led in blocks with 3 as the Rebels notched 6 blocks for the game mixing between a 3/4 court press, 2-3 zone and a 1-3-1 defense.
BENCH SLOWDOWN AND ROSTERBATION
The Rebels bench was averaging 41 points per game or 45 percent of total scoring going into Friday's game with GSU. Partly this is due to Davis and Burnett coming off the bench as Andy Kennedy tinkers with the right starting line-up.
Friday the bench tallied a meager 22 points with JUCO transfer Bruce Stevens leading with eight off the pine. Burnett was ice cold shooting 0-6 and racking up 7 points solely from the free throw line going 7 of 9.
AK is still using a nine man rotation from the previous two games, but post play was much more inconsistent Friday. Justas Furmanavicius had no points in 11 minutes, Drake transfer Dominic Olejniczak added 5 points in 14 minutes and Marcanvis Hymon scored only 2 points in 21 minutes.
BUT THERE'S GOOD NEWS
Here's some really early and really dumb stats for you Saturday morning while you enjoy your morning bourbon and coffee. The Rebels are now #1 in Warren Nolan's RPI - you know 10 percent of the way into the season before anybody has really played anybody.
It's totally useless, but I crunched some advanced numbers and if the Rebels continue to win every game, they'll most likely rank really high on RPI by season's end (BREAKING NEWS).
The Rebels next games take place in Las Vegas as part of the “MGM Main Event Classic No This Isn't Just So Coaches Can Come to Vegas with Seven Figure Salaries and Gamble It All Away and Watch Brit Brit”.
Ole Miss and Utah will tip off Monday at 11:30 PM CST WTF. Match-up predictor on ESPN has the Rebels at a 55 percent chance to win the game.