"This was another educational experience for us," said Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy, his team now 4-1 on the young season. "Our defense has to be a constant when you're trying to find your offense, which we are."
Defensively the Rebels went to a zone after UCF moved out in front early.
"The zone got them out of their rhythm, and the press bothered them," Kennedy said.
Ole Miss trailed 23-11 and couldn't get anything going offensively. The visitors led 26-14 with 7:26 to go before the break but then things changed. UCF started missing some shots, much of it due to the zone, and the Rebels began to chip away. The Golden Knights didn't score again in the half.
When Terrico White scored on a layup with 2:17 left, the Rebels were within striking distance, down only 26-22.
David Huertas got the rest of the Rebels' points in the half. He shot three free throws and made them all to make it 26-25 with 1:43 to go. A Huertas layup with 1:07 to go gave the Rebels a lead at 27-26, their first advantage since Huertas opened the game with a trey at 3-0.
"We began to play with a sense of urgency," Kennedy said of the comeback before halftime. "We had missed a lot of shots early, and sometimes David (Huertas) and Chris (Warren) force the issue. But when we relaxed and played, we were better."
The Rebels led 27-26 at halftime before 6,007 announced despite some less than stellar numbers. Ole Miss shot just 28 percent (8-29) in the first half and was 2-10 from 3-point range. A 9-12 performance at the free throw line kept them in it.
UCF wasn't a whole lot better at 36 percent (11-31) from the field. The Golden Knights only shot two free throws, making one.
Ole Miss stretched the lead out quickly in the second half. It was 10 points at 40-30 when Huertas made a 3-pointer off an assist from Warren with 15:28 to go.
The Rebs continued to heat up in the second half, shooting 64 percent from the field (18-28) and continuing solid free throw shooting at 8-10 (80 percent).
The Rebel defense held the Knights to 26 percent shooting in the second half (8-31). Jermaine Taylor was the lone UCF player in double figures with 16 points.
"We just played a 2-3 zone and they couldn't score," said Huertas, who again led the Rebels, this time with 24 points. "Coach told us we were going to stay in it."
And they did for much of the rest of the game. The UM lead was as large as 34 points late. The Rebs won the battle of the boards 46-34.
Central Florida, coming off one of the biggest wins in program history at New Mexico four days earlier, fell to 2-2 on the season.
Ole Miss hosts Morgan State Saturday at 1 p.m.
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