Ole Miss hit the road for the first time in its young 2016 season to play in the Paradise Jam Tournament in the Virgin Islands. The eight teams participating in the seventh iteration of the tournament included Creighton, North Carolina State, Washington State, Ole Miss, Saint Joseph’s, Loyola Chicago and Oral Roberts.
After placing third in the 2011 Paradise Jam, the Rebels looked to put together another competitive run at the title. Early wins against Oral Roberts and Saint Joseph’s gave the Ole Miss players much needed confidence as their chemistry continued to grow. Led by Miami transfer Deandre Burnett and returning senior leader Sebastian Saiz, the Rebel offense looked as dangerous as ever, putting up 95 points against Oral Roberts and 81 against Saint Joseph’s.
Leading the charge against Saint Joseph’s, senior forward Sebastian Saiz scored a career high 26 points while grabbing 12 rebounds. Saiz has been mentioned numerous times by head coach Andy Kennedy as a leader on this team both off and on the court. Saiz had 599 rebounds going into his senior year as well as nine career double-doubles and showed no signs of slowing down this season after hitting the game-winning shot against the University of Massachusetts just before the tournament.
Burnett, in perhaps the first of many standout performances, put up a career and tournament high 41 points as the Rebels pulled away from Oral Roberts in overtime. Even more impressive, Burnett’s 41 points were the most by any college player in the nation so far this year. That momentum would carry on through the Saint Joseph’s game, where he contributed an additional 20 points. After being forced to sit out last season by the NCAA, he is hungry to make an impact. To cap off a tremendous tournament from the Miami native, Burnett received all-tournament honors for his 27 point-per-game average.
After a solid first half, Ole Miss led Creighton in the tournament championship by a score of 46-40. Despite the Rebels’ best efforts and a closely contested second half, Creighton pulled away in the dying minutes of the game as the Bluejays went on to win 86-77. Both Rasheed Brooks and Burnett added 22 points a piece, but their performances weren’t enough to stop their nationally ranked opponent.
The 5-1 Rebels now look forward to playing a red hot 6-1 Middle Tennessee State University team. After sweeping UNC Wilmington, Toledo and Evansville, the Blue Raiders captured the Challenge in Music City tournament trophy last week and will look to maintain that momentum at 7 p.m. Wednesday at home. There is free admission to any fan who brings a children’s book or teddy bear to the game.