The Ole Miss Men's Basketball team took on Centenary Saturday afternoon in Tad Smith Coliseum, but the resulting 108-64 win wasn't about the Gents at all.
A Rebel victory was a foregone conclusion.
This one was about the Rebels and their quest to get all the kinks worked out before they travel to face #6 West Virginia next Wednesday.
"I thought our approach was terrific," said Reb Coach Andy Kennedy of his now 10-1 squad. "I worried about that a little with who we were facing, but we responded. In fact, everyone we put in the game responded and I was proud of that."
Despite this contest being a no-doubter, it's still a requirement to go out and execute.
The Rebs did, shooting 67.7% (42-62) from the floor, tallying 32 assists - one short of the school record, and posting the widest margin of victory since 2001.
"We shared the ball and did things the right way," A.K. continued. "67.7% from the field is ridiculous. We had a stretch in the second half where we were 11-12 or something crazy like that. They were good rhythm shots though, and you get those when you share the ball.
"I was also proud that we were active on the glass, outrebounding them 39-24. We wanted a good taste in our mouth going into West Virginia, which is a colossal challenge."
The Rebels came out with their foot to the medal and never eased up.
Freshman Center Reggie Buckner seemed to set the tone for the Rebel effort early on. When he wasn't making a short shot, he was blocking one on the other end. When he wasn't getting a put back stuff on the offensive end, he was dishing to a cutting teammate for an easy bucket.
With Buckner's inspired play spurring the Rebs on, it 24-2 Ole Miss with 11:27 remaining in the first half. That stretch included a 20-0 Rebel run.
The Gents (4-6) righted themselves momentarily and got to double digits in their scoring column, but they never slowed down the Rebels, who went into intermission with a 52-22 lead thanks to a couple of treys from Zach Graham and a DeAngelo Riley layup off an offensive rebound at the buzzer.
The second half was more of the same as Kennedy emptied his bench with the commanding lead.
One side note in the second half, Trevor Gaskins, who has been having difficulty finding the mark from the field, finally hit a couple of shots, which should do wonders for his confidence.
"You could see the relief in his face when that three went in for him," Kennedy noted. "I thought Trevor played a good floor game. It was nice to see a shot or two go in for him."
With 4:23 to go in the contest, Will Bogan got the Rebs to the century mark with a lay in off a give-and-go set with Graham.
Besides shooting 67.7% from the floor, the Rebs also connected on half (11-22) of their three point tries and shot 72.2% (13-18) from the free throw line.
Ole Miss had four players in double figures scoring: Terrico White with 17, Eniel Polynice with 13 and Murphy Holloway and Graham with 12 points each. Chris Warren and Terrance Henry added nine point apiece and Buckner, with his hot start, and DeAundre Cranston each scored 8 points.
Henry and Cranston led the way on the glass with 6 rebounds each.
Jerrald Bonham led the Gents with 18 points followed by Matt Marseille with 15.
Centenary managed to connect on just 24-62 (38.7%) of their shots from the floor and gathered in a meager 24 rebounds.
Now the Rebs' attention turns to West Virginia and Coach Bob Huggins, Kennedy's mentor.
"We want to challenge ourselves against the best. We are ranked and they are in the top 10. We are going to go up there and give it our best," noted Andy. "They are legitimately one of the top teams in the country, they have proven that.
"They have size, athleticism and strength. They have length, length and more length on that front line. And they have a pretty good coach."
Kennedy, in an understatement, said the Rebs will have to play well in Morgantown.
"We'll have to go in there and play a good game, but we are certainly capable of that. We have shown that in spurts. We will just have to sustain those moments on Wednesday," he explained. "We're going to play our game. We are going to be aggressive.
"It's a great opportunity to go on the road and play a team of this caliber. We will surely find out what we are made of and how far we have come since we lost in Puerto Rico."
Kennedy is expecting a rowdy crowd.
"They've had snow issues and their students are on break, so it may not be the usual bedlam, but they'll have a good crowd that will get into the game," A.K. said.
Where do the Rebs stand now, a third of the way through the season and facing one of its stiffest tests of the year?
"We're playing with better chemistry and rhythm now. We still have some issues, which most teams do in December, but we took a step forward against Centenary," he closed. "We've had close games, we've been in hostile environments and we've come back from being down.
"I like the way we are progressing."
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