Notebook: Foul Play

His contributions were off-and-on, but lone senior DeAundre Cranston surely showed capable of reliable production in spots last season.

In 31 appearances, including 10 starts, the former JUCO transfer averaged 3.1 points and 4.2 rebounds in 16.9 minutes of action per game at forward. He grabbed five or more rebounds on 13 occasions, while tying for second on the team with 12 blocked shots.

More notably, however, Cranston recorded seven points, eight rebounds and two blocks in a win over No. 24 Kentucky. He contributed nine points in a win over Tennessee along with six boards, and then followed in March with another nine-point performance against Arkansas on 3-for-3 shooting from the field.

But somewhat holding the 6-foot-9, 260 pounder back in 2008-09 was a struggle with fouls, as Cranston notched 89 on the year. He also fouled out of nine contests.

"It's hard to get into a flow, especially when you're constantly fouling," Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said. "He has to get better. Some of it is conditioning and some of it is him just understanding where he's supposed to be.

"When you foul, it stops the flow of the game and is also giving your opponent the opportunity for free points. We want to be aggressive without fouling and that's something we've been working on."

Used in a reserve role last season, Cranston admits transitioning to the style of play in the SEC from Daytona Beach Community College was "a big jump." Getting up to speed in the Rebel playbook took time of course, as well as learning the needed effort game in and game out.

For Cranston, limited experience lent to an increase in fouling. However, with a full year now under his belt, the Orlando, Fla. native said he expects much improvement.

"It's a product of getting in better shape. Last year, it seemed I was always a step late," he said. "Now, I'm in better shape where I can be a step ahead instead of a step behind. I've adjusted to being in the SEC now. I feel like the role I'm playing as a senior leader, I've adjusted to it. I'm ready."

As one of few veteran options in the frontcourt, Cranston is expected to be relied on heavily when the team opens against UALR Friday.

Ole Miss is limited in post numbers, so Cranston's continued maturation is needed with two newcomers (forwards Reginald Buckner and DeAngelo Riley) still green to the rigors of big time college basketball.

"I think we're ready. I think we're good with the people we have," Cranston said. "We have at least five guys who can play down low. And if all else fails, we'll go four guards and a big. We're comfortable with what we have."

The Trigger Man:

Though debatable with the emergence of Freshman All-American Terrico White last season, as Chris Warren goes, so goes the Ole Miss offense.

Down 38-35 against Auburn-Montgomery over the weekend, the Rebels were shooting a mere 36 percent from the field. They had connected on 1-of-12 3-point opportunities in the first half, headlined by an 0-3 clip from Warren.

But seemingly on cue, the 5-foot-10 junior came out firing in the second. Warren quickly drained a pair of treys, which led to seven consecutive for the team en route to a 67-point period.

"Once we got that little spurt by Chris," Cranston said, "everybody knew we needed to step it up."

For the game, the Rebels made good on 11-of-26 shots from long distance. Ole Miss shot 50 percent for the game from the field, while Warren topped the team in scoring with 22 points.

"In the first half, nobody was hitting shots," said Warren, who saw the Rebels claim a lopsided 102-62 final. "The whole team was off and we couldn't get anything going. So I think when I hit a few in the second half, they got more relaxed and knew they could knock down some shots."

Considered a primary focal point for Ole Miss offensively, Warren enters the season ranked eighth in school history with 128 career 3-pointers and fifth with 4.3 assists per game. In his previous two seasons, he's tallied 45 combined starts, and actually set the school freshman records for points (554) and scoring average (15.8) in a season.

While he started only 11 games as a sophomore before falling to injury, he still ranked among the SEC leaders in average points (19.0), assists (4.0) and steals (2.5).

And if Friday was any indication, Warren remains the offensive spark when the situation arises.

Fluid Lineup:

With a possible 10-man rotation (barring injury, of course), Ole Miss isn't lacking in the depth department.

As the season moves forward, Kennedy will be afforded the advantage of multiple personnel groupings based on matchups and flow of the game due to the versatility of his lineup.

Though the season opener awaits in a matter of days, Kennedy said he's yet to decide on a starting unit, but that he and the staff have some ideas of how to best utilize their multitude of riches.

"A lot of it is fluid and will be game to game. We haven't even really set on a starting lineup yet. We've got some ideas just based on some different things, but a lot of it will dependent upon how guys play. Realistically, on each and every night, we're going to play eight, nine or 10 guys."

Regardless, the fourth-year head coach can sense "it's time" to get the season started.

"As a coach, you always worry about if you've covered everything that could possibly happen Friday night," he said. "So we still have a few more days to make sure we're prepared. The journey begins this Friday night in trying to build an identity for ourselves. I know what I'd like it to be, and I know what we're working for, but we still have to go out and create that identity."

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