Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis and the Rebels travel to Indianapolis today for the first road game of the season against the Butler Bulldogs. The Rebels will try to snap the Bulldogs’ 45-game win streak at home against non-conference opponents, the third-best in the nation.
The matchup in Hinkle Fieldhouse is the first true test for the Rebels under Kermit Davis, as Butler is a team that is always in the mix once March rolls around. The challenge in enemy territory early in the season will demand a strong performance from the Rebels, who are still adjusting to new systems on both offense and defense.
“(These) are the games that are going to be meaningful national games,” Kermit Davis said.
Butler has consistently produced a dangerous team coming out of the Big East, a conference with no shortage of perennial tournament teams, and this year looks no different.
Head coach LaVall Jordan led the Bulldogs to a 21-14 record in his first season at his alma mater, earning a No. 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament last year.
The Bulldogs lost two senior leaders from last year in Kelan Martin and Tyler Wideman, but the talent left on the roster is enough to find another postseason berth at the end of this season.
The Bulldogs won both of their first two games of the season, each by more than 20 points, using stiff defense and good offensive performances from Kamar Baldwin. The junior guard scored 21 points with six assists and four rebounds against Miami (Ohio). He also tallied 26 points with six assists and eight rebounds on Monday against Detroit Mercy.
Slowing down Baldwin and the Bulldogs in storied Hinkle Fieldhouse will be an interesting challenge for the Rebels, who looked to have a new pep in their step on the defensive end in their season-opening win last Saturday.
The Rebels held the Western Michigan Broncos to 40.8 percent shooting and had 15 steals in the 90-64 blowout, the most in a game since 2012. The active defense and impressive performances from the supporting cast around Terence Davis had the Rebel faithful buzzing with excitement in the Pavilion.
Terence Davis led the team with 17 points, but when the shots weren’t falling for him, his fellow guards were able to pick up the slack on the offensive end. Devontae Shuler and Breein Tyree scored double digits, and senior D.C. Davis didn’t miss a shot coming off the bench, scoring 12 points to give the Rebels an extra push.
With production like this and added contribution from the rotating frontcourt of Hinson, Buffen, Stevens and Olejniczak, the Rebels could leave Indianapolis with an impressive point on their resume early in the season.
“I know it is going to be a big game for those players, having an SEC team come in, so I think it will be a great experience,” Kermit Davis said. “Those kinds of games are great RPI games throughout the year, especially if you can go there and play well on the road. Our guys are really looking forward to Friday night.”