The Rebels moved to 3-0 on the season with a methodical 89-71 win over Indiana. Now it's Kansas State up next, an 80-70 winner against Boston University. The Rebels and Wildcats play at 7:30 p.m. (CT) Friday.
The young Hoosiers, rebuilding under second-year head coach Tom Crean, fell to 2-1 on the campaign. When Ole Miss went on a 14-0 run midway through the first half to move out front 25-20 after IU led 20-11, the Rebels never trailed again. The Hoosiers got it to 69-61 in the second half, but the athletic and deep Rebs went right back to work to pull away for victory.
"As every coach coming in, I've got more questions than answers, and that's why we're here," Coach Andy Kennedy said of his Rebels. "I thought our guys responded to Indiana coming out and being aggressive, which you would hope an experienced team would do. We have some experienced guards and made some adjustments and came away with the first win in the history of our program against Indiana. I have so much respect for Tom (Crean) and his program."
The fourth-year Ole Miss head coach got his wish for Friday's foe, facing an old friend who is the KSU head coach.
"Nothing against (Boston University)," Kennedy said prior to the tipoff of the day's final contest. "But Frank (Martin) is one of my dear friends. He's done a tremendous job at Kansas State. I would love to have that opportunity (to play the Wildcats). A lot of people don't like to play against their friends. I'm the opposite way. I like to play against my friends, because then I know at least one good guy's going to win."
In the Rebels' victory vs. IU, Kennedy liked what he got from Trevor Gaskins and Zach Graham, even moreso than just their numbers. Gaskins had eight points and three steals. Graham scored 10 points, had seven rebounds, two blocks, two assists and a steal.
"I thought, honestly, the guys who changed the game were Trevor Gaskins and Zach Graham," he said. "Trevor's defensive intensity changed the game. Zach also hit some timely shots and was good on both ends of the glass."
Kennedy was also impressed with the game of freshman Reginald Buckner.
"He's going to be a tremendous player," Kennedy said after the Memphian finished with five points, 12 rebounds, and three blocked shots. "Reggie has all the physical tools necessary to be an impact guy at this level. He's having a hard time finishing if it's not a dunk, but he's going to be a great player."
Everybody who watched was impressed with Murphy Holloway's 26-point performance.
"We tried to get Murph behind the zone, because they got so extended on the perimeter," Kennedy said after the sophomore scored 26 points to lead the Rebels. "It opened up some opportunities behind the zone. Polynice did a great job of penetrating and developing scoring opportunities for Murph."
"We went to the sideline and coach told us to get behind the zone," Holloway said. "It was open, so I just got behind the zone and got easy points. Eniel Polynice kept taking it from the top of the key and making plays happen."
Indiana's Crean said Ole Miss is a team that can make some noise nationally this season.
"That's a team on a mission right there. They've got a chip on their shoulder," he said. "They've got the bodies, the athleticism, the deepness, the shooting, and the maturity to not get rattled when they get down. We don't have that yet."
The Wildcats will be the Rebels' best opponent so far. K-State returns four starters from last season and was picked to finish fourth in the Big XVII by vote of the league's coaches.
In addition to their win against the Terriers, the Wildcats have wins over Loyola-Chicago (92-54) and Western Illinois (82-50).
Martin has been at the helm for three seasons, since taking over for Bob Huggins who was at KSU for only one season as head coach before leaving for his alma mater, West Virginia. Martin and Kennedy had served as assistants to Huggins in Cincinnati. Martin was Kennedy's assistant the one season the Rebel mentor served as head coach of the Bearcats.
In the Wildcats' victory over Boston University, according to the KSU athletics media relations story, 6-foot-4 freshman guard Rodney McGruder led five players in double figures with a career-high 20 points.
McGruder connected on 5-of-6 field goals in the game, including 4-of-5 from 3-point range, to go with five rebounds in a season-high 22 minutes. He has scored in double figures in all three games this season, while hitting on 9-of-12 from beyond the arc.
Junior 6-0 guard Jacob Pullen was second in scoring with 14 points to go with five assists and three steals, while 6-8 junior forward Curtis Kelly added 12 points and a season-high nine rebounds.
Sophomore 6-7 forward Jamar Samuels had 11 points in 29 minutes of action, while 7-0 freshman center Jordan Henriquez-Roberts was solid with a season-high 10 points and eight rebounds.
The Wildcats ended the first half of Thursday night's game on a 10-1 run to lead 39-35 at intermission.
K-State never trailed in the second half, holding as much as a 13-point lead on three occasions. McGruder's fourth and final 3-pointer gave the Wildcats a 60-47 lead with 9:53 remaining. However, the Terriers wouldn't go away, closing the gap to 60-55 on Carlos Strong's second free throw with 6:06 remaining.
K-State pushed the lead back out to 13 points on McGruder's lay-up with 2:43 to play to end the threat and cap a 10-2 run. The Wildcats made 10 of 11 free throws to end the game.
Round Two: Kansas State
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