Out with the Okra

Ole Miss unofficially kicked off the 2010-11 season Friday, downing Delta State in exhibition action, 86-52, inside Tad Smith Coliseum.

Trevor Gaskins led all scorers with 17 points. Zach Graham followed with 15 points, aided by 5 of 5 shooting from the free throw line. Terrance Henry and Reginald Buckner tied for the team lead in rebounds with seven apiece.

"It was great to see Trevor get into a rhythm. The last couple of years, he's really struggled early," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "I thought he got into a rhythm early and really played like an upperclassman."

Kennedy, ushering in his fifth season, said the game served its purpose, providing the Rebels with a good barometer of where they stand with the season-opener just a week away.

Andy Kennedy

With the win, Ole Miss moved to 3-0 in exhibition games vs. Delta State under Kennedy.

"An exhibition game is what it is," Kennedy said. "Two objectives: Let's try to leave here injury free is the first objective accomplished. And the second is to let a lot of guys play. I think you saw a bunch of nerves. It was good to get all of those new guys some minutes."

Outside of a couple of walk-ons and injured guard Dundrecous Nelson, every player recorded minutes in the win, consistent with Kennedy's hope when meeting with the media Tuesday. Nelson suffered a mild concussion earlier in the week and was not dressed out.

"Any time you have a concussion it's a serious injury, but if the exhibition game was tomorrow, he could've played," Kennedy said of Nelson. "Just hit his head on the floor and was concussed. It's unfortunate, because he needed (to play)."

Ole Miss officially opens its season next Friday, when it hosts Arkansas State at 7 p.m.

"There's a lot of things we need to shore up," Kennedy said. "We've got to be much more efficient offensively. Defensively, I think we relax off the ball, foul too much."

Warren picks up where he left off:

Ole Miss, as expected, ran its offense through Chris Warren.

The senior guard, who entered the game with 26 career 20-point games, had a solid outing Friday night.

Chris Warren

Warren troubled Delta State with 11 points on 3 of 10 shooting, including 3 of 6 from 3-point range.

Warren sat most of the second half.

"We won the game. That's the ultimate goal," Warren said. "It's an exhibition game. We did a lot of good. We still see some things we need to work on. We played OK (defense), but our intensity was down. But that can be fixed."

Warren saw the most action of any Ole Miss player, recording 25 minutes in the blowout. Warren was a preseason All-SEC first team pick by the league coaches and media, and has the most career points of any returning player in the SEC.

"To me, when I look at him, I see a totally different player," Kennedy said of Warren. "I see a guy that, he's always been confident, he's always had a moxie, a coolness to his game, unflappable. But now I see a little more assertiveness. I see a little more sense of urgency."

Buckner sparks solid frontcourt performance:

Buckner, injured for a lengthy stretch last season, had a strong opener Friday.

"I know what Reg is capable of," Kennedy said. "He's so athletic, he's so quick. He gives us a true presence at the basket. We're trying to get him in more of a rhythm offensively, so we were trying to get him the ball. I thought he made a couple of really good moves, as well."

The sophomore forward helped set the tone for the soon-to-be one-sided laugher, totaling all four of his blocks in the first half. Buckner made four of his nine shot attempts for eight points, to go along with seven rebounds in 21 minutes.

"I thought Reginald Buckner was tremendous in the first half," Kennedy said. "Completely dominated the game. In the second half, obviously he's watching the scoreboard; I'm taking him in and out of the game. He wasn't nearly as effective."

Williams starts slow, finishes strong:

Sophomore guard Nick Williams came out of the gates cold, not scoring a point in his three first-half shot attempts.

But the former Indiana transfer, who is finally eligible to play this season, responded in the second half.

Nick Williams

He was a perfect 5 of 5 in the second half, including two 3s, while also showing his leadership by diving on the floor for a loose ball out of bounds with his team up 24.

"It was a huge difference in Nick Williams' first half and his second half," Kennedy said. "He made a shot, relaxed a little bit, which was big.

"He's an active player. He's not going to be a volume three-point guy, but I guess he made all of them in the second half. Where he's good is in that mid-range. He's very active with his hands, causing deflections leading to plays. He'll be a big addition."

Williams scored 11 points in the first seven minutes of the second half. For the game, Williams was 5 of 8 from the field for 13 points. He also had three rebounds, two assists and two steals.

"In the first half, I came out and I didn't want to try to press or nothing," Williams said. "I just wanted to ease into it. I air-balled my first shot. After that, I felt OK. I came out in the second half and did what I had to do."

Williams said the team still has some work to do before the season-opener against Arkansas State.

"I think we're OK," he said. "I know we've got a lot more work to do, at least defensive-wise. Young guys came in and played well, we've just got to step it up defensively, because we think they scored too many points. They got too many easy put-backs. We can't have that if we want to win."

Random Notes:

* Senior guard Zach Graham has a chance to eclipse 1,000 points and become the all-time winningest player in school history. Graham is 23 wins shy of that mark… Ole Miss was picked to finish second in the SEC West by a panel of SEC and national media… Ole Miss and Delta State have met officially six times, with DSU holding a 4-2 advantage in a series that ran from 1937-1942… Friday's game was the third exhibition matchup between the teams in the last five years, with Ole Miss winning 80-69 before the 2006-07 season and 110-65 before the 2007-08 campaign… Kennedy has an 85-50 record at Ole Miss, two SEC West championships and three postseason berths, which includes a pair of trips to the NIT Final Four.

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