Rebels get past Delta State 80-69

Ole Miss defeated the Statesmen in the second and final exhibition game of the preseason for the Rebels.

Andy Kennedy evaluated it quickly.

"Tale of two halves," said the first-year Rebel head coach after Ole Miss beat Delta State 80-69 Monday night in Oxford before an announced crowd of 1,506 fans, which included probably a couple hundred DSU supporters.

Ole Miss won the first half 51-25, and the Statesman had the upper hand in the second half 44-29. Kennedy said that second-half type effort, play, and result is unacceptable.

"First half we were really good, played hard, and I thought we were solid in our halfcourt defense. Offensively we shot it exceptionally well, we moved it well. We're still too careless with the ball. We've got a lot of guys who are unbelievably careless; drives me crazy. Unforced errors, we call them.

"Second half, I've seen it before. You're up 25 and your mentality is to get through the half. That's the wrong mentality. That's what I'm talking about changing the culture right there. Good teams don't do that. Good teams like to play. Good teams relish the opportunity to play someone else and get better. In the second half I thought we were just trying to get the game over with."

And head toward their season opener on Friday night vs. Mississippi Valley State. But Kennedy said there's work to be done between now and then.

"Whether or not we're ready, it's coming," he said of the UM-MVSU encounter. "I certainly wouldn't turn down more practice time than we've got. But it all starts Friday night against Valley."

Ole Miss came out on fire in the opening half, shooting a blazing 63 percent (22 of 35) from the floor, including 5 of 10 from beyond the arc. In the second half that cooled down to 41 percent (13 of 32) and a dismal 9 percent from 3-point land (1 of 11).

The Statesmen never really threatened to win the game once the Rebels got rolling. The UM lead was double-digits at 19-7 with eight minutes gone in the first half following a 3-pointer by Justin Cerasoli.

The lead reached 27 points on an Eniel Polynice layup with a minute to go before halftime.

DSU got it down to 16 points at 61-45 halfway through the second half on a Johnny Hodge layup. After the Rebs pushed the lead back out to 22 points when Todd Abernethy nailed a trey to make it 69-47, the visitors from Cleveland continued to fight and scratch and claw their way back into it until a final 3-point shot by Justin Neely trimmed the UM lead down to the final tally of 11 points.

Junior forward Kenny Williams got his first action of the season against DSU, scoring 12 points, several on dunks, going 6 of 7 from the floor and hauling in four rebounds with a couple of blocks and a steal.

"He brought some energy," Kennedy said of Williams. "He's certainly an SEC athlete. He really helps our front line, and I thought he did some good things. He also did some not so good things, and at times just wasn't real smart. But that's to be expected. This was his first game on the floor with other Division I players."

Additional top Rebel scorers were Bam Doyne with 18 points and Abernethy with 15.

The Rebs appeared to take a step forward from the first exhibition game - also against a Division II team in North Alabama. The Rebels won game one 108-103, but against DSU seemed to play with more cohesiveness and confidence than last Friday night vs. UNA.

Jermey Parnell was better inside but still has work to do, according to Kennedy. The junior C/F scored seven points and got four rebounds, with a block and a steal in 13 minutes. But Kennedy said he has a long way to go.

"He's a guy that we're counting on, especially with Dwayne (Curtis) out," Kennedy said. "He's played a total of 25 minutes in two games, and he's a kid that we need to play 25 minutes each game. He's got a lot of work to do from a conditioning standpoint and more importantly being aware of what's going on so he doesn't pick up foolish fouls."

Kennedy said the Rebels will have to put together two halves to be successful, starting with Friday night's game which counts in the season's standings.

"The first half we were really good," he said of the UM-DSU contest. "The second half we were just sloppy. When you get sloppy, you're a step behind. They went to the (free throw) line, and that's how they got many of their (second-half) points. That's because we were just a step slow and being reactionary instead of being aggressive like we were at the beginning of the game."

Kennedy seemed frustrated that there is still no real update on the status of Curtis and the stress fracture in his left foot.

"I guess the Pony Express has to deliver those results," he said. "I don't know. They act as if he's progressing, but I don't know."

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