Kermit Davis and the Ole Miss basketball team avoided disaster in their return to the capital city with an 83-76 win over Southeastern Louisiana on Saturday.
The Rebels escaped the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson with a victory despite a lackluster defensive performance against the 3-8 Lions, allowing 58.2% shooting from the field and 30 points from SELA forward Tyron Brewer.
“At times I didn’t know what team I was coaching,” Davis said after the game. “We couldn’t get matched up. The energy level wasn’t very good… Everything we could do wrong defensively, we did it.”
A career-high 20 point performance from Khadim Sy was enough to overwhelm the Lions offensively in the end.
The Rebels found Sy open in the paint regularly throughout the game with a size advantage over Lion center and fellow Senegal native Pape Diop. Sy led the team with nine points and three rebounds in the first half and finished the game going 7-11 from the floor with seven rebounds, and a block.
“Dream has been getting better and better and better. He caught balls and finished around the rim. We had to have every basket that he made,” Davis said. “He’s getting better and we need him to keep making that progress.”
The Rebels got off to a quick start missing only one of their shots in the first five minutes with triples from Hinson, Sy and Tyree, but Brewer started the game with 10 quick points to give the Lions an early advantage.
A combination of Brewer’s offense and a few easy buckets in the paint saw the Rebels down early but they came storming back at the midpoint of the first half. Brewer finished the game with 30 points and six rebounds on 13-17 shooting.
“He kicked our tail in every way possible today. We had nobody to guard him and he got comfortable,” Davis said.
Brewer only had one point in their matchup against the Rebels in 2018, but the sophomore out of Meridian, Miss., made his mark on this game, coming up with a big shot every time Ole Miss looked ready to pull away.
Momentum shifted later in the first half when Tyree connected with Sammy Hunter on an alley oop from an inbound from the baseline, but Brewer continued to gash the Rebels on the other end of the court with a layup a three and a fadeaway jumper on three consecutive possessions to keep the Lions ahead.
The Lions, however, seemed to have an answer every time the Rebels could create some momentum. Even with the shots falling on Rebels shifting to Davis’ signature 1-3-1 zone defense and , the lions were able to find passing lanes for easy lay-ins.
“Southeastern played better than we did today. We’re fortunate to win,” Davis said. “We couldn’t keep guys out of the paint. They had 24 assists on 32 baskets. That’s just a team that does whatever they want to do. But, glad to be 8-3. We’ll hopefully enjoy the next four days and get back to work.”
With only two games left before conference play opens against Texas A&M, the Rebels have limited time to adjust before the competition heightens. The team will return to Oxford after the Christmas break to face Tennessee Tech before heading to Wichita State for the final non-conference matchup.