Rebs start slow, finish fast in hoops win

It took a while but the Rebels finally got rolling in a 94-70 win over Louisiana-Monroe Saturday. Ole Miss (4-0) hosts Troy Tuesday at 7 p.m.

"We were very sluggish. I was a little disappointed," said Ole Miss Coach Andy Kennedy, whose program is now 20-1 in Oxford games this season and last. "We talked about it. I understand because I've done this so long now. I know you're not going to play your 'A' game every day. But our focus and attention to detail and making a lot of the same mistakes over and over, that's a concern. That's happening too much with our new guys. They have to understand the sense of urgency, what to do and when to do it. There is a growth process, and that's why we scheduled our first six games at home."

Kennedy, whose team was up only 42-38 at halftime, said the second half was better.

"Out of the gates in the second half we had a couple of spurts," he said. "That enabled us to get some separation. But this was the most frustrating 24-point win I've ever been a part of."

The second-year head coach, now 25-13 at Ole Miss, said the second half was an improvement for a variety of reasons. The Rebels had trailed by as many as six points at 16-10 in the first half but took the lead for good at 30-27 on a Chris Warren 3-pointer with 5:44 left in the first half.

"In the second half I thought we moved the ball better," Kennedy said. "Our defensive pressure was better. We constantly want our defenders to be in line, meaning a direct line between the ball and the man they're guarding. That makes it very difficult to beat you with direct passes. In the second half we did a better job of that. We forced them into 30 turnovers (for the game)."

Sophomores David Huertas and Eniel Polynice shared scoring honors for the Rebels with 17 points each. Kennedy said it was nice to see Huertas, the transfer from Florida, continue to become more comfortable on the court.

"The most positive thing I saw from David was that he made two throw-away 3s at the end, and those go in and that's good for his psyche'. It's good to see those go in for him," Kennedy said. "He's still forcing things a bit. I wish he would get that runner out of his game, but I think that's because he's not making perimeter shots. He's looking to get closer and closer as opposed to taking what the game gives him."

Huertas was very pleased to have stepped up in this one.

"Finally," he said, sighing and smiling after his performance, which included making 7-of-13 shots from the floor and 3-of-7 from 3-point range in 24 minutes. "I feel a lot better. Now hopefully I can just keep it up and keep it rolling. I hope this was my breakout game."

Freshman forward Zach Graham had 13 for the Rebels to also score in double figures. Warren, the freshman point guard, had 12.

Jonas Brown with 14 and Jordan Payne with 13 led the way for UL-M.

Kennedy said the Warhawks may be 1-4, but they aren't a bad team. No better example of that than the way they hung with Ole Miss for much of this one.

"They're a good team and they're hard to prepare for," he said. "This is a team that led Michigan State in the second half (before losing 83-65), so they're capable. They play four guys that are small, so that really takes your big guys out of the equation. You hope that allows you to hurt them on the other end, which I thought at times we did. But it also seemed we were just way out of sync, and that could have been the way we were just forced to defend."

Also getting more minutes than before was 6-foot-9 freshman Malcolm White, who had four points and three rebounds in seven minutes, including a putback dunk and another dunk of his own, both igniting the crowd.

"He came in and gave us some minutes," Kennedy said. "He's very athletic, as you can see. He wanted to get up and down the floor on the achilles (which has been injured). He practiced three straight days last week which is the first time he's done that in quite a while, so hopefully he's getting healthier."

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