"We struggled offensively tonight, and that's an understatement," Kennedy said. "We had a hard time finding any offensive rhythm. What you hope when you go into a season with so many guys that have never been in this situation before, you need your veterans to play well."
The meshing of old and new players took a while.
"We were just very, very hesitant in the first half," Kennedy said. "In the first half we were trying to spread the floor based on what we anticipated them doing and try to attack, and we never moved the ball. We never swung the ball from side to side. In the second half I thought we had better ball adjustment, and as a result we got some open looks."
The Rebels made just nine shots from the floor in the first half for 32 percent. Arkansas State was not much better, making 10 shots and shooting 36 percent. Both teams were 0-7 from 3-point range in the opening half.
The Rebels trailed 27-22 near the end of the first half when sophomore guard Chris Warren lobbed it to freshman Terrico White who slammed it to cut the margin to 27-24 at halftime and ignite the crowd announced at 6,249 as well as the team itself.
Junior David Huertas was fouled early in the second half on a missed 3-point attempt and sank all three to tie the game 27-27. After ASU went back up 29-27, Huertas made a 3-point basket to make it 30-29 Ole Miss with 17:19 to go, and the Rebels never trailed again.
The largest UM lead was 14 points on several occasions, the first time on yet another Huertas trey with 8:58 left for A 55-41 advantage.
Huertas led the UM attack with 24 points on 8-of-11 including 3-of-5 from 3-point range as well as 5-of-5 from the free throw line, all in 34 minutes of action.
Last season Huertas struggled early. Not so this time.
"It gives you a boost of confidence," Huertas said of his game. "Hopefully I can keep it up."
Ole Miss shot 39 percent in the second half (13-of-33), and 3-of-15 from 3-point range.
The Red Wolves shot 35 percent for the game. ASU won the rebounding battle 43-42.
"We're in the process of learning how to win and what it takes to win," said new ASU head coach John Brady, who has coached in Tad Smith Coliseum many times as head coach at LSU and as an assistant at Mississippi State. "This isn't the place to come to learn how to win with a new team and a new coach. I was proud of our team from the standpoint of how it competed, how it rebounded, and how it played defensively. And I really wasn't too unhappy with our offense. We just need to make some shots. This was a good game for us to see what we need to do."
Following Huertas' 24 points, only Warren was in double digits for the Rebels with 14.
Defensively holding ASU to 52 points was a positive for the Rebs.
"I thought defensively our effort was pretty good," Kennedy said. "If we could have done a better job on our defensive glass, we could have kept them under the 52 that we did."
Ole Miss hosts South Alabama Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Rebs win opener
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