Snake-bitten? Not against FAMU

Florida A&M, coming in 2-8, was just the opponent for a fresh new start by the Ole Miss men's basketball team. The Rebels jumped on the visitors early and never looked back in an 86-63 win.

It had been an interesting five days for the program, to say the least. Perhaps just playing a game against any foe was as important as playing a team that was clearly beatable.

Still the Rebels had to execute and take care of business, minus three players they started the season with, and for the first time without starting point guard Chris Warren. And they did.

The lead was 13-0 on a Will Bogan 3-pointer with 14:45 gone and the tone was set. FAMU trimmed the UM lead to 17-11 before DeAundre Cranston scored on a layup, was fouled and made the free throw. The Rebels continued to build the lead and were up 45-27 at halftime.

The Rattlers got to within 12 points a couple of times in the second half but could never cut it any further.

Much of the focus going in was on how Bogan would handle the point guard situation.

"For Will to come in and play 32 minutes and get more and more comfortable as the game went on I thought was huge," said Kennedy after his freshman, formerly a backup and now a starter, scored six points, both 3-pointers, had three assists, with a steal and only two turnovers. "He's got to fill a void for us, and obviously we've got to do some things differently. And we'll try to continue to make those adjustments. But I thought it was certainly a good first step for him."

Kennedy graded Bogan an "A-Plus" for his first start.

"I don't know about A-Plus," Bogan smiled and said postgame. "I'm just coming in and trying to do what the coaches and team need me to do."

Bogan wasn't the only Rebel who stepped up in this one. Since practice began in October, three familiar veteran faces are gone by way of knee injuries in Warren, Eniel Polynice, and Trevor Gaskins. That's three important guards on this team, and Kennedy said the remaining backcourt players continue to do what they can while getting a feel for the way things are now.

"We had a little bit of foul trouble, and Terrico (White) played heavy minutes but wasn't his sharpest," Kennedy said. "When Z (Zach Graham) got into a little bit of foul trouble, you look and you just don't have that depth at the guard spot. But we're going to continue to battle and we'll try to make this work."

Terrico White had a career-high scoring night with 18 points on 8-of-15 from the floor and 2-for-2 at the free throw line.

"We were looking for a break-out game," Kennedy said of Terrico. "Eighteen points is pretty good."

A couple of inside guys also had career nights as Malcolm White scored 18 points and pulled down nine rebounds, while Murphy Holloway scored 15 points with 16 boards.

Dale Hughes' 14 points led four Rattlers in double figures.

Ole Miss outrebounded FAMU 47-22 including 20-5 on the offensive boards. The Rebs were 14-of-15 from the free throw line.

Kennedy liked the start his team had and felt it was key to the way they continued to play throughout.

"It was huge," he said. "The teams we had played in this building, despite our success here, with the exception of West Virginia, the other teams had gotten off to a better start. We've talked about that and tried to create a mindset. It was good to see us come out of the gate with some energy."

Now the Rebels, 8-4 on the season, can relax a bit. After a long preseason thus far, they get a little time off for Christmas.

"We're going to take a much-needed break, let them rejuvenate mind, body, and soul, come back and get ready for a very challenging game against Southern Mississippi," Kennedy said.

The Rebels and Golden Eagles play in Biloxi on Tuesday, Dec. 30, at 8 p.m.

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