Ole Miss opened up the 2015-2016 season with a 90-76 victory over Northwestern State, a stark contrast from the season-opening loss in 2014 to Charleston Southern.
Ole Miss senior guard Stefan Moody led the way with 29 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. Moody tied his career high in points, set last February against Mississippi State. Moody garnered 16 of his 29 points in the second half, where the Rebels were able to close out the Demons.
“We have other guys that can step up and make baskets,” Ole Miss guard Stefan Moody said. “But me being the lead guy on this team, I’ll take on that role and the basket that needs to be gotten, I’ll go up and get it.”
Kennedy said he expects Moody to repeat his performance if the Rebels want to be successful again this season.
“I thought it was a ho-hum game for him, but he had 29 (points), five (rebounds) and five (assists),” Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said. “That’s the expectation that I have for him. That’s the way he’s going to have to carry for this team.”
Point guard play is perhaps the biggest question mark of this Ole Miss basketball team. With Jarvis Summers gone, Kennedy said he hopes that junior Sam Finley could be the guy that emerges to take over that lead role. Finley had an impressive performance Friday, putting up 16 points and 2 assists in the season opener.
“It got better throughout the course of the game. Sam (Finley) did some really good things,” Kennedy said. “He has the ability to get it at the basket. He only turned the ball over one time in 28 minutes against a team that was playing pressure, albeit passive pressure. We had some hesitation at times, but he did a good job of getting the ball into the paint.”
Ole Miss (1-0) led 38-32 at halftime, but Northwestern State pulled within three at 58-55 with 10:31 left in the second half. The Rebels would go on a 12-4 run that rebuilt the lead at 70-59 with 7:52 left in the game. The Rebels had no trouble pulling out this win after shooting 24 of 28 (85.7 percent) from their charity strike.
Junior Sebastain Saiz posted his third career double-double with 16 points and a career-high 14 rebounds in the victory. Junior Rasheed Brooks also added 11 points off the bench.
“There were a lot of positive things tonight,” Kennedy said. “The most positive thing is this is a quality win.”
The Rebels are back in action Monday night hosting Georgia Southern at 7 p.m. at the Tad Pad.