Adjusting to D-I

DeAundre Cranston has been finding his way through the first months of D-I college basketball. Against Alabama, the improvement was evident.

The 6-foot-9, 250-pound junior forward played 33 minutes scoring eight points and didn't miss a shot. Two of them were critical 3-pointers early in the second half when the Rebels needed a boost.

He pulled down five rebounds and had two assists, two blocks, and two steals in the contest. It was his sixth start in 18 games for the Rebels, now 10-8 overall and 1-3 in SEC play.

"He certainly gave us an offensive lift," Ole Miss Coach Andy Kennedy said. "He hit two big 3s in the second half when we desperately needed them. I thought he competed. It was a season-high minutes for him, and he did some good things."

The Orlando native who came to Ole Miss after two years at Daytona Beach CC said things are improving for him.

"It was really adjusting to the style of play," Cranston said. "Me coming from juco, it's a little slower than the SEC where they're banging and you're getting bumped and bruised a little bit. And I had to learn to play hard every play. It's been an adjustment."

He said making both 3s he attempted wasn't all that surprising.

"As long as I'm in rhythm I'll hit ‘em," he said. "I practice it every day."

Still it's the inside presence that Cranston needs to bring most to the table. The Rebels have needed improved play there all season.

"If we continue to play a lot of zone, we can rebound better with a big lineup," said Cranston, joined inside as a starter by 6-9 sophomore Malcolm White. "Murphy (Holloway) is also a good rebounder, so we have some players to get it done."

He had been averaging less than 16 minutes a game until Wednesday night in Tuscaloosa. Kennedy said more minutes mean Cranston is making those adjustments and contributing.

"He was just making that transition from junior college to Division I," Kennedy mentioned as a factor in Cranston's earlier lack of production.

Productivity was there against the Crimson Tide.

"I was contributing to the team, so he kept me on the floor," Cranston said.

That's something we're likely to see more of from now on.

Ole Miss plays at South Carolina Saturday at 7 p.m. (CT) on FSN.

Zach Graham update: The sophomore has been hampered recently by a knee injury situation so much so that he is not practicing with the team. He is simply playing in the games. That may not change the rest of the season but is not a certainty. He is the fourth Rebel with knee injuries this season, although the other three were lost for the year following their situations. All three – Trevor Gaskins, Eniel Polynice, and Chris Warren – have had successful knee surgeries and are now going through rehab to heal up for next season.

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