Gliding down the court, not a jersey in front of him, Terence Davis rose up and flushed a two handed slam that officially marked the beginning of the Kermit Davis era of Ole Miss basketball.
His opening-game dunk was the first two of 17 points he would score en route to a 90-64 victory over Western Michigan Saturday afternoon at the Pavilion.
Terence Davis, the senior forward picked to the preseason all-SEC second team, led the team with 17 points on 7-12 shooting to go along with two rebounds and three steals.
The win was Coach Davis’ first in the red and blue, and despite coaching for over 32 years in college basketball, tip off still made him nervous.
“It was a new experience today. I had butterflies,” Kermit Davis said, with a laugh. “It was a fun, new feeling for me, especially with the start we had.”
Ole Miss jumped out to a 15-4 lead, hitting six of their first nine shots including three made threes.
Defensively, they forced eight turnovers in the first four minutes, finishing with 17 forced in the first half. They parlayed the strong defensive production into 24 points off turnovers. Kermit Davis’ squad led 43-22 at halftime.
“I was really pleased with how we played defensively. (WMU) had seven turnovers on their first right possessions,” Kermit Davis said. “I thought we played hard, but we played within a concept of really trying to guard to the scouting plan.”
To Davis’ point, Ole Miss held Western Michigan’s most lethal offensive threat, Seth Dugan, to 10 points and 7 boards on less than 40 percent shooting. For context, Dugan put up 32 points and 22 rebounds in Tuesday’s game against Detroit.
Ole Miss opened the game running Coach Davis’ patented 1-3-1 defense. They hounded the WMU guards and routinely forced the ball handlers to pick up their dribble near the mid-court line, making any sort of offensive rhythm for Western Michigan nearly impossible.
After the fifteen minute mark of the first half, the Rebel lead never dipped below 12. Western Michigan opened the second frame on an 8-1 run, prompting Coach Davis to swiftly call a timeout. Seemingly, whatever he conveyed to his team in the huddle worked, because Ole Miss didn’t look back; the Rebels won the remaining 17 minutes 46-34.
Ole Miss shot 54 percent from the field, knocking down 10 of 22 three point attempts—good for 46 percent behind the arc. For the most part, the three point makes came later in the shot clock after the ball had been moved throughout the offense.
Coach Davis trotted out most his bench, playing ten guys in the first half and 12 in total. Ten players put points on the board, with four (Davis, Shuler, Tyree, D.C Davis) hitting double digits.
D.C. Davis, the smaller and less-known of the Davis tandem, scored a career high 12 points on a perfect 4-4 shooting from the floor. A junior college walk-on, D.C. Davis only saw action in five games last season, but a strong offseason and opening game suggest more playing time going forward.
Coach Davis cited D.C.’s intense work ethic as evidence for his success.
“He led most hours in the gym on his own every day,” Kermit Davis said. “He’s one of our strongest guys and one of our best athletes.”
The loftier Davis was happy to see teammate’s hard work pay off.
“D.C. is a player — he’s been pretty much our best defender in practice,” Terence Davis said. “(After the game) I just told him I love him, man. You don’t get too many guys around you like him.”