The Ole Miss Rebels expanded a 39-29 halftime lead in a hurry in the second half's early-going and rolled to a 77-64 victory over visiting Saint Louis University Tuesday night.
It was the first of seven straight home games for the 5-2 Rebels to wind up non-conference action before opening Southeastern Conference play at Alabama on Jan. 7.
The Rebels led the Billikens by as much as 24 points, the last time at 67-43 halfway through the second half. Saint Louis, falling to 4-4, chipped away at that lead and play got a bit sloppy the final few minutes of the contest.
Still Ole Miss head coach Rod Barnes was pleased for the most part. Last Saturday at Illinois-Chicago, the Rebels led late but didn't finish and lost in overtime. Against SLU, the lead was large enough that they almost coasted home to victory.
"After what happened Saturday in Chicago, we needed a win," Barnes said after the first of five home games in nine days for his squad through Wed., Dec. 21. "The game at Illinois-Chicago got away from us. We were disappointed. But tonight we scratched and clawed and fought to get this one, and I liked that. Our guys stepped up and we needed that."
Stepping up big for the Rebels were Bam Doyne, Trey Hampton, and Dwayne Curtis. Doyne led the way with 15 points going 7-10 from the field. Curtis and Hampton had 14 each.
Hampton, a freshman, had started all six of the Rebels' games before this one. Barnes said he felt like it was a good time to start Jermey Parnell inside along with Curtis, and let Hampton come in off the bench. That accomplished two things. He had wanted to play both Curtis and Parnell in games at the same time anyway, and he felt Hampton was pushing a bit much.
"I felt like Trey has worked hard, but I really wanted to see Jermey and Dwayne in there together," Barnes said. "Trey is a very good basketball player and will have a great future here. There's no question about that. But I thought he was pressing a bit, because he wants to win so bad."
Hampton said he continues to grow and mature into playing a large role on a college team.
"I am definitely more comfortable than a week or two ago," Hampton said. "Coach (Barnes) told me it was basically going to be a fight every game and that since we lost at Chicago, it was going to be tough. But the sign of a true team is to fight back. So I am more confident, and everybody on the team was willing to rally and play hard and win this game."
Doyne has started all seven Rebel games this season, and he continues to impress those on his team and those watching from the stands.
"Bam was really hot tonight," Barnes said. "We had a long talk about him stepping up. He is one of the more veteran players on this team. He knows the motion offense that we run. He can help guys get where they need to be."
Doyne said a key to the Rebels' victory was the fast start at the beginning of the second half when they outscored SLU 28-14 during the first nine minutes after intermission.
"We talked in the locker room at halftime about getting in their faces and jumping on them quick," the junior guard said. "We did that tonight."
Saint Louis head coach Brad Soderberg had good things to say about Ole Miss.
"I told Coach Barnes they out-toughed us tonight," he said. "I can't believe they lost as many guys from last season and still look like they did. Ole Miss has a lot to be optimistic about. I was impressed.
"This was a tougher game for us than at North Carolina (UNC won 75-63 a week ago but SLU led 34-31 at halftime). We were able to get to the basket easier against North Carolina than against Ole Miss. We were lucky to be down only 10 at halftime (tonight). They make their free throws and we're down 18 or 19 at that point. I like Coach Barnes and how his teams play."
Ole Miss got 44 points from its five starters in this one - Curtis, Parnell, Doyne, Todd Abernethy, and Clarence Sanders. The bench contributed a solid 33 points.
The Rebels shot 57 percent (32-56) from the floor including 47 percent (7-15) from 3-point range. One negative was poor free throw shooting as the Rebels were only 6-15 from the line.
Ole Miss hosts Nicholls State at 7 p.m. Thursday.
Rebels roll over Billikens
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