Coaches preach it every day - get off to a fast start and set the pace/tone.
Despite playing without injured All-SEC performer Jarvis Summers, out with a bad back, that's exactly what the Ole Miss Rebels did against Southeast Missouri.
The result was a relatively one-sided 82-51 victory over a scrappy, but over-matched, Redhawks squad.
After a blistering 17-4 spurt right out of the gate, the Rebels cruised to a 47-24 halftime margin and it was game, set and match, for all intents and purposes.
SEMO, 5-7 now, had no answers for the Rebels, who, on this night, did just about everything right and left nothing to chance.
One key for Ole Miss was the very efficient play of Terence Smith, the senior transfer who started at point guard in place of Summers. Smith had 10 points, three assists and, most importantly, no turnovers in 17 first-half minutes.
"Terence made his first two 3s and kind of set the pace for us. He took care of the ball and got us in a rhythm. It kind of went from there," said Coach Andy Kennedy, who notched his 200th win as the Rebel coach in this contest.
"We didn't bring him here to be a point guard, but he needed to play that role tonight and he did a nice job. SEMO pressures you at the point of attack. You have to fight through that, and he did."
In the end, it was one of the more complete games the Rebels have played this year, replete with quality offensive possessions, good board work and solid defense.
None of that was lost on Kennedy, who has seen this team have some odd ups and downs thus far during this still-young season moving closer and closer to conference play.
"We hit the boards hard, we shot 51 percent (25-49) from the floor, we shot free throws well (26-31 - 83.9 percent) and we took care of the ball (13 turnovers)," Kennedy continued. "This game and the Oregon game have been our most complete games.
"We have played some good halves and in spurts, but this was a 40-minute effort we are pleased with."
Smith led all Rebel scorers with 16 points, but three other Rebs were in double figures - M.J. Rhett with 14, Stefan Moody with 13 and Sebastian Saiz with 11.
The Rebs outrebounded SEMO 39 to 29 with Saiz and Martavius Newby snagging seven boards each.
Kennedy said the 8-3 mark is not where he wanted to be, but he thinks his team may be turning the proverbial corner.
"We've got some quality wins. My hope is we can take a few days off and come back locked in and ready to go with Dayton coming up next," he stated. "I think some guys are feeling better about themselves, a lot of guys contributed tonight and when we get Jarvis back healthy, we will get this thing on track."
On his 200th win as the Rebel mentor, Kennedy was humble.
"How about that? I guess that's a pretty good milestone. We've had some success, but we certainly hope to have some more," he said.
The fast start sealed the deal.
Summers Update: "He practiced yesterday and looked great, sharp, on it. At the shoot around today, he was on the side rolling around and said his back was cramping. We never could get the spasm out. He'll be OK, but he couldn't go tonight."
Fast Start Victory
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