A Few Good Men

Thanks to career games by both Nick Williams and Zach Graham, Ole Miss notched its second win of the season in impressive fashion Wednesday, 77-61, over Murray State.

Nick Williams and Zach Graham combined for 43 points and 10 rebounds, as Ole Miss ran away from Murray State for an impressive, resume-building, 77-61 win Wednesday night.

"That's a good basketball team," Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said. "We scheduled them knowing they were going to come in here and really test us. We were going to find out a lot about our team. We've still got some execution issues, but I thought we really took a step forward tonight."

Graham, who left the game midway through the second half due to cramps but later returned, led all scorers with a career-high 22 points. His previous career high was 20 points against Arkansas in 2009.

The 6-foot-6 guard was 6 of 11 from the floor, including 3 of 4 in his 3-point attempts.

"It seemed like their game plan was to pressure Chris (Warren), and I wouldn't be surprised to see that more," Graham said. "Chris is going to draw every team's best defender. When teams are pressuring Chris like that, we've got to help Chris out and just make plays. That's what we tried to do tonight."

Williams, in his first season at Ole Miss after sitting out a year following a transfer from Indiana, had a career-high 21 points. His performance comes on the heels of an eight-point, five-rebound effort in Ole Miss' season-opening win over Arkansas State.

Zach Graham

"I think he brings a good energy. I think he does a lot of things for us," Kennedy said of Williams. "And when he's making shots, obviously it adds a new dimension to us."

Ole Miss wore down Murray State (1-1), eventually running away with the game in the second half.

The Rebels shot a blistering 54 percent in the second half, including 14 points from Williams and 13 from Graham. For the game, Ole Miss held the advantage in rebounds (39-30), while shooting 45 percent from the field and 28 percent from the 3-point line.

Ole Miss, now 2-0 overall on the season, was also good on 22 of its 23 free throw attempts.

"Free throws were really big for us tonight," Graham said.

Ole Miss starts slow, finishes fast to key blowout:

Reginald Buckner and Terrance Henry opened Wednesday night's game with Murray State with a flurry. The pair combined for six points, including an alley-oop (Henry to Buckner) on a breakaway for an early 6-2 lead.

But after the first of two first-half Buckner dunks, the Rebels went ice cold, failing to score a point for nearly nine minutes. Graham went to the free throw line in back-to-back offensive possessions, making good on all four of his attempts to break the scoring drought.

Graham was 6 of 6 from the free throw line in the first half. The senior had nine points in the frame.

"Even though we had a scoring drought, our defense helped us out," Graham said.

With 7:52 left in the first half, Ole Miss had made just three of its 16 shot attempts, good for 19 percent, including 0 of 6 from the 3-point line. Ole Miss and Murray State had combined for 15 turnovers, as the Racers held a slim, 12-10 advantage.

Ole Miss stayed in the game with its stingy defense. Murray State struggled as well offensively, due primarily to Ole Miss pressuring the ball and forcing turnovers. The Rebels held Murray State to a paltry shooting percentage of 25 percent.

"We just felt like we could get on them early and pressure them, because teams that pressure a lot don't like to be pressured," Williams said. "We got them rattled a little bit and took advantage of some missed baskets. We got ahead of them and didn't let up."

Warren sparked the offense with a layup. It was the first made basket for Ole Miss since 18:02 in the first half. After two more Graham free throws, Warren found Buckner for another alley-oop.

Reginald Buckner

Williams followed with a 3-pointer to cap an 11-0 run.

"They're a really good defensive team," Williams said. "They were denying everything. We just had to fight for everything. We missed some easy shots, and they made some shots tough for us. We kind of pulled away in the first half and they made some shots, but we kept our foot on the gas."

As slow as Ole Miss started offensively, it finished just as fast. Warren keyed a 12-3 run as the half came to a close, as the Rebels held a 34-23 advantage. They never trailed again.

"This is only our second game, but the way we played in the first half, competitively, we compete," Graham said. "We continue to play hard on both sides of the ball. It's looking really good (for the season)."

Streak snapped:

Warren saw his school-record streak of 46 straight games with at least one made 3-pointer come to an end Wednesday against Murray State.

The preseason All-SEC point guard is third on the Ole Miss career 3-pointers chart. He had a pedestrian line of 10 points, five assists and six turnovers.

"I hate that it's broke," Kennedy said of Warren's streak. "But I give Murray State credit, man. They were really pressing up on him, forcing him to drive. That was their game plan, and it was a smart one."

Fans, students mostly, began chanting for players to get the ball to Warren as the clock ticked away. Warren attempted two 3-pointers late, including a trey with 20 seconds left, but both failed to find the bottom of the net.

"I heard the fans," Kennedy said. "I was shocked they knew that. I was like, ‘He must not have a 3,' so I checked the stats. We tried to run some action for him, and Trevor (Gaskins) shot it. That wasn't supposed to be what happened."

Pounding the paint:

Ole Miss dominated Murray State in the paint, outscoring the Racers, 34-17.

Murray State is replacing two members of its frontcourt this season, but it wasn't just Buckner and Henry, Ole Miss' primary post scorers, doing the damage. Rebel guards forced action to the rim, leading to high-percentage buckets.

"Our effort was tremendous," Kennedy said. "We made high-level plays, plays that will transcend as we continue to progress this season. I do think that this is one, at the end of the day, that we'll be able to hang our hat on. That team's going to win a lot (of games)."

Defensively, Ole Miss had six blocks in the game. Buckner again paced the team with three blocks, while Graham and freshmen Dundrecous Nelson and Demarco Cox each had one.

Andy Kennedy

"I thought we really guarded," Kennedy said. "We took five charges tonight. Everybody was flying to the ball, making plays. Obviously, Reggie continues to give us a presence at the basket with his ability to block and alter shots."

Charity stripe, indeed:

Ole Miss was a perfect 12 for 12 from the free throw line in the first half. The Rebels didn't let up in the second half, making 10 of 11. Ole Miss shot 96 percent from the charity stripe in the game.

"I'd like to be able to tell you we've got that figured out. I think we've got the right guys shooting the ball," Kennedy said.

Warren, Williams and Graham were all perfect (a combined 18 for 18) from the free throw line.

"Our bigs didn't shoot a free throw," Kennedy joked. "You make your own conclusions."

Random Notes: Ole Miss was 1-3 against Murray State in the all-time series prior to the win… The Rebels are 61-11 at Tad Smith Coliseum since Kennedy's arrival in 2006-07… Ole Miss is in a stretch of four-straight home games… Murray State was a 31-win NCAA Tournament team last season, nearly upsetting eventual national runner-up Butler in the second round… Ole Miss returns to action Saturday against Dayton at 6 p.m.


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