After fighting a ton of issues surrounding COVID-19, Ole Miss men’s basketball finally hit the hardwood on Thursday, knocking off Jackson State in dominating fashion 80-45.
The Rebels were led in scoring by Devontae Shuler with 23 points followed by Khadim Sy with 11. Although it was a season-opening tune-up against a SWAC opponent, Ole Miss did what it needed to do and gave some minutes to some new faces on Thursday night. In fact, it was the largest margin of victory in a Kermit Davis coached opener at Ole Miss. Here are a few observations.
Ole Miss was the superior team. They showed it and didn’t play around.
The Rebels were favored by 23 points coming into the game, and it’s very rare that 23-point underdogs pull off the upset. SEC teams are supposed to dominate these type of games, and Ole Miss did just that. It presented a good opportunity for Kermit Davis & Co. to see how the new faces on the roster, of which there are many, looked under the lights in game action. With that being said...
The defense looks good.
Ole Miss dominated on the defensive side of the floor as the Tigers didn’t reach double digits until late in the first half and finished the frame with just 12 on the scoreboard. You obviously have to score to win, but solid defense is an important part of basketball, especially when you hit league play. I know it was against a SWAC team, but Thursday was a good sign for the Rebel defense.
Devontae Shuler was hot.
Shuler went 9-for-10 on FG opportunities for 23 points, and it started with this one.
Much of Ole Miss’ fortunes will depend on Shuler this season. Outside of Breein Tyree a season ago, the Rebels struggled to find consistent guard play. Shuler will likely not shoot this efficiently against stronger competition, but can he be the guy Ole Miss needs him to be this year? This was a good start.
Matthew Murrell is a freshman.
The early minutes Murrell saw were not the prettiest. The No. 39 prospect out of Memphis, Tenn., was an exciting signee for Davis and the Rebels, but he showed his youth some on Thursday night, going 0-for-7 in FGs with four points. Still, he was highly rated for a reason, and the talent is definitely there for him to be an effective piece of the Rebels’ roster in the games and seasons to come. It just takes time, take a few deep breaths and it’ll come to him.
Romello White, however, is not a freshman.
The grad-transfer from Arizona State averaged just over 10 points a game and 8.8 rebounds per contest last season on a Sun Devils team that reached the NCAA tournament. Again, it was against a SWAC team, but White looked good in his Ole Miss debut, dropping eight points and snagging six boards. It’s early, but the newly-christened Reb looked the part on Thursday night and should be a key post presence moving forward.
Up next: UNC Wilmington
The Rebels will host the Seahawks on Saturday at 4 pm on SEC Network+