The first road test for the 6-0 men's basketball squad is Saturday at Central Florida, and that will offer a different challenge for the Rebels. It's one they can handle. But will they?
Chris Warren is a key. The true freshman point guard was named the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week for his efforts against Troy and New Mexico.
Warren, who has started all six games at the point this year, averaged team highs of 19.5 points and 7.5 assists in the two contests. The speedy rookie set career highs with 23 points and 10 assists for his first career double-double in the 102-76 win over Troy. He hit 5-of-9 from behind the arc and directed a 25-0 run at the beginning of the second half to put the game out of reach. He also contributed 16 points, five assists and three steals, with just two turnovers, in a game-high 35 minutes of action in the 85-77 victory over UNM.
The Orlando, Fla., native tops the SEC and ranks in the top 10 nationally with 7.0 assists per game and leads Ole Miss with 14.8 points per contest.
Warren, still learning on the job, has some characteristics that defy the fact that he's a true freshman only six games in, such as when he took control of a situation against New Mexico as a large Rebel lead was shrinking.
"Just hold on and don't panic. We're still up. Take care of the ball. Let everything come to you," Warren said, choosing his words thoughtfully and carefully, as he always does.
That type mentality will bode well not only for the 5-foot-11, 170-pounder but also for the Rebels as a team as he grows and matures.
Lobos Coach Steve Alford said he was quite impressed with Warren.
"The Warren kid does a tremendous job," said Alford, a former All-American point guard himself during his playing days at Indiana and later an NBA player. "He's very hard to keep in front. He's just really a hard guy to keep track of. He plays with great energy and great enthusiasm. (Their team's offensive success) starts with him."
Ole Miss Coach Andy Kennedy said Warren was effective last Saturday and continues to improve.
"He was pretty good with the ball – five assists to two turnovers. He scored 16 points, and I didn't think he shot it particularly well," Kennedy said. "I played him heavy minutes, 35 minutes. At the end of the game he missed a couple of shots."
Kennedy said there are still some things that he needs to do better, and those will come with time and experience.
"He's still making some decisions that I wish we could correct," the second-year UM head coach said. "As a coach we feel like we're better when we're attacking. We're certainly better in the open floor. But under two minutes he's not seeing it clearly enough to value the ball and try to run a little more clock. But he took the shots that were there. He missed a couple late or he would have had a monster game."
In the eyes of the SEC it was monster enough among newcomers for Warren to garner Frosh of the Week honors early in his career.
On the women's side, Kayla Melson also was named SEC Freshman of the Week.
The 5-8 guard opened the week by scoring a team-high 15 points in helping the Lady Rebels to a 74-62 victory over UAB, marking the second consecutive game in which she led the team in scoring. In addition, she recorded a career-high five rebounds to go along with one assist and one steal in 28 minutes of action.
In the following game at Ohio State, Melson again turned in a double-digit performance as the Lady Rebels played well against the Buckeyes before losing 69-55. Melson scored 10 points for her third straight game in double figures, while adding four rebounds for the Lady Rebels. The Huntsville, Ala., native also had a game-high three steals to go along with one assist.
Melson currently ranks 12th in the SEC in assists per game with 3.17 and 13th in the conference in steals per game with 2.17.
Warren already making presence known at point
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