Ole Miss has no bad losses through 11 games. The Rebels are 8-3, their latest win a 66-49 cake walk over Bradley Monday night. The problem, though, is they don’t have a signature win, either. Memphis is 117 in the RPI. Saint Joseph’s is 56 with an overall record of 5-5.
The Rebels are very much in the NCAA Tournament discussion with just one non-conference game remaining until SEC play tips off in earnest against No. 6 Kentucky Dec. 29. It’s in the league schedule that they’ll have to build their postseason case — never an easy proposition considering the volatility and heightened uncertainty of the SEC. Still, No. 2 Baylor presents a season-altering opportunity, and five of the seven games that precede the Jan. 28 date with the Bears are against Top 60 RPI teams.
Bradley was what it needed to be, made better by the face the Rebels avoided their usual late-game swoon that has turned other would-be blowouts into single-digit wins. Ole Miss led by nearly 20 points at halftime, and the game was all but over. I almost spent this entire space focused on Terence Davis, who had one of his better games and flashed, again, why he has arguably the greatest upside of any player on the roster. He’s, without question, the most athletically-gifted Rebel, and he brings a frantic energy Ole Miss needs, especially when it falls victim to its inevitable scoring lulls. But I’ve written such things before. He had 19 points on 8 of 11 from the floor and 3 of 4 from 3 with over 16 minutes left in the game. That’s efficient basketball, to say the least, though he did little else the rest of the way. But he has to prove he can string these types of games together with any semblance of consistency. If he can, he’ll be on his way to becoming the Terrico White clone I’ve pegged him to be for the last year-plus, including an NBA future. His a real talent, albeit still raw and learning. And lest we forget Sebastian Saiz notching his sixth double-double of the year ...
I digress. Ole Miss did what it had to do Monday night — a sentence I feel like I’ve written after every non-conference win this season. Because, well, it’s true. Without a true signature win, the Rebels can ill-afford a disaster loss in the RPI, though, to be fair, current RPI rankings aren’t the most reliable metric when determining team value, at least with the season still so young. Even so, we know what the Rebels face. They have to keep beating the teams they’re supposed to beat, avoiding every single pot hole along the way until they win one they’re not necessarily supposed to. That’s a delicate line to toe, but so far they’re toeing it. South Alabama is next, then the real work begins.
Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy
On the win: “Defensively, I thought we were outstanding, really locked in. Didn’t give them anything free. The 1-3-1 was effective. Gave up a couple of baskets late, but other than that, I was really pleased. Offensively, we’re not close to where we need to be to win real games. Take nothing away from Bradley, but we’ve got to get a lot better offensively. But defensively it’s as well as we’ve played in a long time.” On Terence Davis: “He’s an athlete. We’ve tried to get him downhill in everything he does, be in attack mode, attack, mode. He still settles a bit, but he’s now making 3s at a decent rate. He can make hard plays for us. We need more of those guys and the guys that are capable of doing it like him, we need to be consistent in that area.” On the starting lineup change with Donte Fitzpatrick-Dorsey and others: “I’m still trying to find the right way to play this team. Donte helped us last year. He hasn’t been able to really give us much this year. I thought, defensively, he set the tone for us. (Deandre Burnett) didn’t really respond the way that I’d hoped. I was trying to limit his minutes a little bit. I think he plays tired. When you play tired, you take plays off. I was just trying to limit his minutes, a little bit, out of the gate. He didn’t shoot it very well. He had five assists to only one turnovers. I thought he was doing a good job of not forcing action, making plays. But we’ve got to get him back where he’s scoring at an efficient rate.” On where the team stands with SEC play around the corner: “We’ve missed some opportunities, but we’ve held serve. The one (loss) that stings the most is the Middle game because it’s at home. We lost to three teams, and two were away from here that I think are going to be in the NCAA Tournament. From a numbers standpoint it doesn’t kill you, but we’ve missed some opportunities. The great thing about our schedule is we’ve got opportunities, and we’ve got a lot of them. We’ve got to get better. Different groups respond to different things. I’m not sure this group is a great big-picture group. I’m going to try to stay in the moment. Let’s digest what just transpired, let’s try to learn from it, let’s immediately get to South Alabama, let’s go home for a few days and everybody exhale. Then we’re back and we’re into league play.”
OXFORD – (AP) Terence Davis scored 19 points as Mississippi placed three players in double figures Monday, as the Rebels defeated Bradley 66-49.
Cullen Neal scored 12 points while Sebastian Saiz recorded his sixth double-double, 10 points and 13 rebounds, for the Rebels (8-3), who were never seriously threatened.
Bradley (5-7) was led by Darrell Brown with 14 points and three assists. The Braves shot 18 of 58, 31 percent, from the field. Bradley trailed 38-19 at halftime and never got closer than 17 points again.
Ole Miss was 23 of 55, 41 percent, from the field, including 9 of 28, 32 percent, from 3-point range. The Rebels, led by Saiz, out rebounded Bradley 41-36.
Ole Miss went on an 11-0 run during a two-minute frame late in the first half to build a 38-19 halftime cushion. Neal and Burnett combined for three 3-point shots before Davis capped the decisive surge with a twisting layup.
Bradley: The Braves feature the third-youngest roster in the country and it has showed in December, losing four of five games. JoJo McGlaston, 0-for-10 from 3-point range over the past six games, broke the streak by hitting 3 of 4.
Ole Miss: The Rebels are 3-1 in December, as Davis has emerged as a third offensive option to go with guard DeAndre Burnett and forward Saiz. Coming off consecutive double-double performances, Davis had 14 first half points as the Rebels raced to an insurmountable 38-19 halftime cushion.
Bradley visits TCU on Wednesday before opening Missouri Valley Conference play the following Thursday by hosting Southern Illinois.
Ole Miss hosts South Alabama Thursday. The Rebels complete a four-game home stand the following Thursday with the SEC opener against Kentucky.