The Ole Miss men’s basketball team’s matchup against Western Michigan on Friday won’t be the biggest non-conference game of the season, but Kermit Davis said his team is preparing as if it’s a late-season conference game.
The Broncos are undefeated this season with wins over McNeese State, Milwaukee and Mississippi Valley State, and while the competition hasn’t been top-notch, the Broncos have displayed explosive ability on offense so far.
Michael Flowers has been a dynamic scorer early this season, averaging 25.3 points per game, including a 34-point performance last Saturday. The Broncos will also utilize forward Brandon Johnson, who is averaging a double-double through three games, averaging 16 points and 10.7 rebounds per game.
“They’re coming here 3-0 undefeated, feeling good about themselves. I like their team,” Davis said. “They look like a really good MAC team. We’re going to have to be really ready to play just like the Norfolk (State) team that we just played.”
The Rebels are expected to win Friday, but Davis said he’s pushing his squad to play with urgency. The Rebels coasted to a 71-43 win over Arkansas State to open the season, but had to pull away from Norfolk State in the second half for a 68-55 win on Tuesday. Davis said he uses the fact that Kentucky and Alabama got upset recently as examples to motivate and avoid early season upsets.
“People get surprised by things in college basketball, but really we shouldn’t be,” he said. “I think sometimes what happens with fans, it hits them because football is still going on. Penn can’t beat Alabama in football, but Penn sure can beat Ole Miss and Alabama and a lot of teams in basketball.”
The Rebels are still missing a key piece from a season ago, as sophomore Blake Hinson has not yet practiced with full contact this season. The forward 6-foot-7 forward has been out since preseason training with blood abnormalities. His expected return date has been moved back from Nov. 19 against Seattle to their game against Memphis next Saturday.
“I was hoping it was going to be Seattle. I’m not sure. They’ve talked about maybe Nov. 20,” Davis said. “He did a long series of blood tests on Saturday, so they’re still gathering all that. I do think he’s going to be available for the Memphis game. At one time I was hoping Seattle, but I’m not so sure about that right now.”
Hinson averaged 8.3 points and 2.9 rebounds in 24 minutes per game as a freshman last season. He’ll likely capture a starting spot once he returns, with his ability to space the floor and make plays on both ends of the court.
“We’ve seen him in contact. He just needs to get hit some, he needs to fall down, he needs to do all the things you do,” Davis said. “I mean, he’s got to get used to it again. It’s been Aug. 8 or 9 since he’s done that.”