The last half of non-conference play has dragged on for Ole Miss. Starting 6-5 with a trip to Austin remaining in January, the Rebels needed a win. Bradley came in with a 10-2 record and a top 100 ranking in KenPom, the best in Brian Wardle’s time in Peoria. That mattered not on Friday night as the Rebs topped the Braves in Oxford, 82-59. A good win.
Andy Kennedy couldn’t have asked for a better start. The Rebels hit 8 three-pointers in the first half to build a 20-point lead and they never looked back. By the end of the game both teams cleared the bench in the Rebels’ lopsided win. That’s two wins in a row that have helped crystallize an offensive scheme that at times has looked herky-jerky, and we still have much to learn about the defense down the conference stretch.
Here are three things we learned:
Terence Davis can still turn on the afterburners.
With 25 point on 9-for-14 (6-for-8 from long-range), Davis showed he still has that next level of talent that landed him preseason All-SEC 2nd team honors (it should’ve been 1st—Deandre Burnett got 1st team honors because coaches aren’t actually all that smart). Nobody on the team has the athleticism or shooting ability that Davis possesses and he proved that on Friday. He also stayed in the game by keeping out of foul trouble, which is remarkable given his propensity for early fouls and defensive dumb-headedness. Coming off the bench these last two games seemed to have lit a fire under Davis. The Rebels need more 25-point nights out of him in SEC play.
Rahim Lockhart’s return came at a good time.
Bruce Stevens has given the Rebels his best three performances since his junior college coach Lockhart has returned. That’s no coincidence. After turning in a 27-point, seven-rebound performance against Illinois State, Stevens chipped in 11 points, five rebounds, two steals, and a pair of blocks against the Braves. He wasn’t the most efficient shooter from the field, but he knocked down all five of his free throws, something any coach would love from a big man.
Stevens’ contribution on Friday is encouraging as the hoopmen head into the conference slate, because Ole Miss is sorely lacking with production in the front-court, especially now that Sebastian Saiz has since departed. If Stevens is the future of the Rebs’ paint-man, so be it, because he can really play when he’s on.
This was a blowout win over a pretty good team.
Bradley came in 10-2, and while they didn’t have any victories over power 6 opponents, they had avoided some ugly losses that the Rebels hadn’t. The Braves entered with a top 30 defense, but had trouble stopping Ole Miss from three-point range.
South Carolina head coach Frank Martin is known for how well his teams play defense, and with Cocky visiting for a New Year’s Eve matinee, Friday was the best way Ole Miss could’ve headed home for the holiday break.
Which is to say, Ole Miss gets a Final Four team at home to open SEC play on New Year’s Eve. Sounds fun.