"You have to use what's working, and not a lot was working for us offensively," Ole Miss Coach Andy Kennedy said. "Chris Warren's our best player, so we wanted to put the ball in his hand. I thought they (Red Wolves) got a little tired, so we just wanted to set some high ball screens and see if he could get in there and create some action. Good things happen when Chris has the ball."
The Orlando native wound up with 26 points, shooting 9 for 15 from the floor and 7 for 7 at the free throw line.
"There was no way I was going to let our team lose this first game," Warren said - his team trailed 32-24 at halftime. "I just had to talk to my team and said we have to get it right. We came out more alert in the second half."
Certainly Warren did. ASU Coach John Brady said while Warren was a huge key to the Rebs' win, there was another factor in his team's loss.
"Chris Warren made some plays, obviously, but I think the real difference in the second half was we gave them too many offensive rebounds," Brady said.
Ole Miss outrebounded Arkansas State 38-31 including 14-9 on the offensive boards.
The Red Wolves led 28-17 early on a 3-point basket by Donald Boone. Arkansas State was able to keep the lead the rest of the half.
Ole Miss shot just 33 percent in the first half and was only 1 for 9 from 3-point range (11 percent). ASU wasn't much better at 38 percent from the floor through 20 minutes.
The second half was a much different story as the Rebels shot 53 percent. Ole Miss closed the gap in a hurry. But the Rebs still couldn't regain the lead they lost early in the first half until the 11:49 mark on a Trevor Gaskins putback of a Demarco Cox miss for a 41-40 advantage.
It was Warren who helped stretch that lead. The All-SEC first-team candidate grabbed a rebound and raced the length of the court for a layup to give Ole Miss a 54-50 lead.
After Gaskins made a free throw and missed one, Warren nailed a 3-pointer on the Rebs' next possession for a 58-50 lead with 4:30 left. The Rebels hung on the rest of the way, with a slam by Warren the final points of the contest.
Gaskins key factor in opener:
Trevor Gaskins had a quiet eight points but led his team in rebounds with seven. The junior from Georgia agreed with Warren that the Rebels were intent on winning, no matter how they played early.
But he also said they need to start games with more of a sense of urgency.
"It kind of like caught us off guard," Gaskins said of the intensity the Red Wolves came out with and the Rebels did not match. "The second half we just woke up. For some reason Ole Miss always comes out not ready to play, so we've got to just be ready to play from the start."
Gaskins said that is unacceptable and the Rebels might end up losing a game if it continues.
"We can't have any more of that, just like Chris said," said Gaskins. "We've got to play defense and make stops."
Gaskin also said the Rebels fouled too much.
"Like always," he said, remembering it was a problem last season for Ole Miss. "They were in the bonus (early) again."
As for his team-leading rebounding effort, Gaskins said he knew he had to step up.
"The coaches are telling me to rebound, because our bigs are kind of struggling," he said. "I just needed to help my bigs out when it was time to rebound."
Brady Bunch leader says more:
The ASU head man said he wishes he had a Chris Warren on his team.
"That's what I need," he said. "If I had one of those, we'd have won that game. Andy (Kennedy) puts it in his hands, and they set ball screens and let him manufacture and make decisions. He'll step up and make a big shot for you."
Brady said he's a fan of Kennedy's ability to evaluate talent.
"I read an article today about Andy and Ole Miss not getting a couple of guys (in the signing period) and it listed a couple of guys not recruited as highly who have turned out to be pretty good. I wouldn't underestimate his ability to identify talent and develop talent. You guys have seen him here four years and how his players have gotten better. Good for him."
Brady said he felt pretty good about his own team after the opener.
"We played hard, we rebounded OK, but we didn't make any big shots from the perimeter," he said. "We've got to find someone who can make a big shot from the perimeter at a critical point in the game, especially on the road against an SEC team. But our team got better tonight."
Next up for the home crowd:
An announced crowd of 4,884 watched the Rebels move to 1-0 on the season and ASU fall to 0-1.
Ole Miss hosts Murray State Wednesday at 7 p.m.
(Photos in this story courtesy of Joey Brent.)