Ole Miss is supposed to look good in an exhibition game against Morehouse, and the Rebels certainly did Thursday night. It would have been news had they not. Of course, some will read too much into an uninspiring 38-32 halftime lead, but Sebastian Saiz only played nine minutes in the first half, head coach Andy Kennedy rotated in 10 players and he mixed up his rotations. Those things won’t happen once the games actually matter.
But Saiz dominated the rebounding against a smallish lineup, and a well-rounded and balanced starting unit of Cullen Neal, Deandre Burnett, Rasheed Brooks, Justas Furmanavicius and Saiz jumped out to a 15-point lead in the exhibition’s first five minutes. Back together to open the second half, they outscored Morehouse 24-7 in seven minutes.
Taking into account those caveats, and understanding Thursday was a one-game sample, Ole Miss certainly passes the eye test, and what seems unarguable is the lineup has been lengthened through strong recruiting and the roster is as deep as any Kennedy has put together.
The starters offer 3-point potential one through five. Marcanvis Hymon — who, out of necessity, was asked to bring nearly 20 minutes a game in 2015-16 and double-digit starts — has settled into a more natural, organic role as first man off the bench, and Terence Davis is a smart choice to anchor the second unit because of his play-making ability and propensity for instant offense.
Ole Miss settled for jump shots quite a bit, which is to be expected in the first game-like action of the year. Aggressiveness in pressing the lane, as well as penetrating the multiple zone defenses the Rebels are sure to see as teams attempt to see how Ole Miss adjusts to life after Stefan Moody, will come as the season gets going and roles are more clearly defined.
But all in all, a good night for Rebel basketball. Furmanavicius’ relentless motor is sure to endear him to Rebel fans. The varied skill-sets of Neal and Burnett allow for myriad rotation options, and the raw potential of Karlis Silins has to be tantalizing for Kennedy, though his development might take some time. The one issue that stood out is, after Saiz, the Rebels are still searching for a consistent, secondary five who they can throw the ball down to for easy points if 3-point shots aren’t falling. But it’s early.
Ole Miss was woefully undermanned last season. Getting back to the NCAA Tournament always felt an uphill climb. This team, it seems, already has a nice head start.
On rotating in double-digit players: “It was good for them. I think there’s real value in what we did (in a recent scrimmage) against Little Rock because I can ultimately give them a lot of time to teach. I think we’ve done that. Tonight, put the uniform on and play in front of whoever was here, I think it was good. Different guys play different when you put people in the stands. I thought it was very valuable to get a Karlis 18 minutes, to get Breein (Tyree) eight or nine minutes against somebody other than himself. Even Deandre Burnett. He hasn’t played, if you think about it, since March of 2015? It’s been a long time. So it was good. Lot to work on. We’ll break this tape down and teach. We’ve got about eight days before it starts counting for real, so a lot of things that I liked. It’s hard to catch a rhythm when I’m playing as many guys as many minutes as I am, some guys that won’t be playing that many when it starts for real. I’m just trying to get them some experience, give them an opportunity.” On what he’ll teach from this game: “With the naked eye, I don’t like our awareness. I thought we were too passive defensively in man. We were trying to mix and match. There were times that we didn't have all five guys in the right defense. Communication wasn’t what it needed to be, and 20 turnovers is a killer. Typically we’ll go point A to point B and get a shot pretty quickly. This team’s built different. We won’t be able to do that, but 20 turnovers is ridiculous. And it’s been kind of a recurring theme for us. We’re too loose with the ball at times. A lot of it is I’ve got a lot of different guys handling (the ball). That’s something we’ll have to zero in on and correct.” On the team potentially settling with 21 first-half 3-point attempts: “A lot of zone. They just zoned. That was their best chance to win. They just stayed in that zone. A lot of (the 3s) are clean looks by SEC players. You've got to make them.” On impressive newcomers: “Cullen gave us some good minutes. You look at his stat line, pretty impressive. Nineteen (points), five (rebounds) and seven (assists), I’d take that on a nightly basis. I thought Rasheed Brooks continues to be one of our most consistent guys. As a senior, you expect that. Sebas got into a little foul trouble. What’s new, right? Deandre Burnett had some moments. Other than that, some of our veterans didn’t play as well as I would have hoped. Terence Davis has made the next step, and I think he showed that at times.” On the performance of the second unit: “Breein Tyree, not only a freshman but a guy who was cleared about 10 days, that shows at times. Not only does he not know everything that we're doing, but seemed to be a little bit slow at times. I really like Karlis’ minutes. He’s a big ol’ body. He can help us inside. Donte Fitzpatrick, Terence Davis, Marcanvis Hymon, those guys have to take the next step. My hope is that they will when the lights come on.”
Ole Miss Media Relations
Ole Miss used a strong second half to cruise past Morehouse College 90-66 in an exhibition game on Thursday night.
Ole Miss showed off a versatile offense with several different weapons to score points. The team showed range, knocking down 12 3-pointers. For comparison, the team only knocked down more shots from beyond the arc once last season.
Junior Cullen Neal led the way offensively for Ole Miss with 19 points. Joining Neal in double-figures were Deandre Burnett (17 points), Rasheed Brooks (17 points), Terence Davis (14 points), and Sebastian Saiz (11 points). Saiz hauled in a game-high nine rebounds while Neal led all players with seven assists.
The Rebels shot 50 percent from the field and overwhelmed Morehouse on the boards to the tune of a +16 rebounding margin.
Ole Miss opened the game with an 18-3 run, sparked by 3s from Neal, Burnett and Saiz. Morehouse would chip away from the lead over the first half with the game going to half at 38-33, but the Maroon Tigers never really threated Ole Miss.
The Rebels pulled away from the Maroon Tigers for good by using a 29-3 run in the early stages of the second half.