Maybe Bam Doyne summed this one up best.
"We want to do something this year. We're trying to go somewhere this year," said the senior guard from Little Rock, Ark. "We can't afford a loss like this. We realize that and we had to get things under control."
That they did; it just took a while. The Rebels finally shook off Tennessee Tech for an 86-77 victory. But it wasn't easy. More from Bam.
"They were very tough," said Doyne with a career-high 25 points in the game to pace the Rebs. "They were very physical. But as the game progressed, they got tired and we wore them down. We just kept playing."
That they also did. Ole Miss, which trailed 43-40 at halftime and by as much as 10 points (56-46) in the second half, didn't get its first lead in this one until Doyne made one of two free throws midway through the second half. Doyne had tied the game 56-56 with 11:01 to go on a 12-foot jumper, and the Rebels then took that first lead of the night as Bam missed the first but made the second for a 57-56 lead with 10:48 left. From that point on the Rebels were somewhat in control.
Somewhat. By that meaning they kept the lead - for the most part - albeit a small one.
Still UM head coach Andy Kennedy said a couple of upcoming baskets by senior guard Clarence Sanders were huge.
"I thought the two 3-pointers he hit were the turning points in the game," Kennedy said of Sanders' back to back treys that moved UM from being down 60-59 to up 65-61 with one Tech free throw sandwiched between. "He had a big second half for us."
Later a couple of free throws by senior guard Todd Abernethy gave the Rebs a 74-66 lead with 3:24 to go. But Tech wouldn't go away. A layup by junior guard Anthony Fisher, who was fouled on the play and made a free throw, cut the UM lead to 77-74 with 1:27 to go.
It was Doyne again that pushed the Rebel lead out to five points at 79-74 as he was good on a 10-foot jumper with 58 seconds to go. After junior center Jermey Parnell took a charge under the Golden Eagles' basket with 38 seconds left, the Rebels had the basketball back.
Freshman guard Will Barnes of Tech fouled Sanders, who had 14 points in the game, with 32 ticks left on the game clock. Sanders made both free throws for a 81-74 UM lead. For all practical purposes, the ballgame was over.
Counting Sanders' two free throws at that point, Ole Miss made seven of eight free throws in the game's final 32 seconds to ice it.
"I thought Kenny Williams had his best game," Kennedy said of the junior forward's 15-point, nine-rebound performance. "He played with some energy and was very active on the offensive glass. I thought it was Jermey Parnell's best game as well (12 points, eight rebounds). They both stayed out of foul trouble so they could get extended minutes out there tonight.
"Todd (Abernethy) was a little sluggish I thought, but I'm playing him so many minutes," Kennedy continued. "It's wearing him down some. He has 23 assists to four turnovers, and I can understand where his legs get a little heavy and he's not shooting as he's capable. And Bam Doyne continues to be our catalyst as he has the whole year."
Kennedy feels the Golden Eagles, now 1-2, will be more than competitive this season.
"I think Tennessee Tech will win the Ohio Valley Conference," he said. "We played them last year at Cincinnati. They had a similar team. (TTU head coach) Mike Sutton does an outstanding job. They play transition basketball. They get the ball to their key players, and their key players are pretty good. So we knew we were going to have to play a solid 40 minutes to get our fifth win.
"We didn't play a solid 40 minutes," he continued, "but we played a pretty good 20. And at this phase in our re-creation, I'll take it."
At this point it appears Kennedy seems fairly pleased to be 5-1 but not all that happy with the route the team has taken to get there.
"It's a puzzling group," he said. "I played (basketball) a number of years and this is my 12th or 13th year to coach, and this is a different group than I've ever dealt with. Some days it's like a soap opera as it relates to the emotions. I think we have good kids, but our team is pretty emotionless at times. We want to be able to play with some emotion. I thought in the second half we picked up the tempo a little bit and knocked in some shots and were much more effective."
Sutton said he was pleased with his team but wishes they had been able to finish.
"Give credit to the Ole Miss kids," he said. "They didn't quit and they made plays. Their guards were particularly good. They made plays to keep them in the game, and then of course they made free throws. I'm disappointed at the result and not happy with the way we finished the game. We have a chance to be pretty good but we have to be able to finish games. I wish Andy and Ole Miss the best of luck. He'll do a very good job here."
Senior guard Rivers Belton had 24 points to lead TTU, while Fisher had 19 and junior forward Amadi McKenzie had 17.
Ole Miss was 24 of 33 at the free throw line while Tech was 18 of 31. The Rebs shot 42 percent for the game and Tech 41 percent. Behind the 3-point line, Ole Miss was 6 of 16 and TTU 9 of 25.
For UM, sophomore forward Trey Hampton was not in the building but was in bed with the flu. Sophomore guard Justin Cerasoli was dressed but held out of any action by Kennedy.
"Coach's decision," Kennedy said of the situation with Cerasoli. "At Ole Miss if you don't practice, you don't play. I'll leave it at that."
He didn't say if Cerasoli would be available for the next contest.
Next up is Nicholls State Friday night at 7 at Tad Smith Coliseum.
Rebs finally pull away from Tennessee Tech
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