Ole Miss beat Louisiana-Monroe 75-62 in men’s basketball Wednesday night, but it was the opening minutes of the second half that did it.
The Rebels led 37-33 at halftime. They finished the game in less than spectacular fashion, failing to really close it out as head coach Andy Kennedy would have liked.
While still a victory, to move to 8-2, Kennedy was less than ecstatic about his team’s latest “W.” Except for that early second-half run to a 20-point lead that got the job done.
“I thought the first five minutes of the second half were vitally important,” Kennedy said. “We’d allowed them to hang around, really because of mistakes on both sides of the ball. We came out of the locker room and made four or five shots in a row right out of the gate. That got us into a rhythm, and we played with some cushion from that point on.”
An Aaron Jones jumper followed by back to back 3-pointers by Marshall Henderson – with a free throw by the visitors sandwiched in there – gave the Rebels a 45-34 lead less than two minutes into the second half.
The advantage swelled to 20 points at 59-39 on an Anthony Perez 3-pointer and again at 62-42 on another Perez 3-pointer.
That would be the largest margin of the evening, and Louisiana-Monroe never got closer than 13 points after that.
Henderson led all scorers with 26 points, all of his six field goals of the 3-point variety.
But Kennedy didn’t like that finish – pleased with the win, he said, but not with the overall product.
“Happy is not something I am,” he said following the victory. “I’m pleased we won. This is a team in Monroe that is 3-2 (coming into the game in Oxford). They’ve had some APR issues, and that’s the reason they haven’t been able to play as many games. Their two losses (coming in) were at Kansas by 13 and at LSU by 7. They’re a good basketball team. When they get into their league, they’ll show that. And their effort was outstanding.”
ULM had 45 rebounds to the Rebels’ 33.
Ladarius White said the key to the start of the second half, in his opinion, was the boards play.
“We rebounded better, and that’s why we pulled away,” he said.
The junior said the Rebels knew they’d be in for a fight with the Warhawks, and that’s what they got.
“They’re a really good team,” said White, who finished with 13 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, and three steals. “They played LSU to the wire. They played Kansas to the wire. They hung around.”
But they weren’t quite good enough to pull off the upset, to finish the game.
“We’ve had problems this year coming out to start the second half, and those poor five minutes cost us the game,” said Louisiana-Monroe head coach Keith Richard.
And while the Rebels didn’t “finish” as Kennedy would have wanted, it all went back to those early minutes of half No. 2.
“That was about as good a ten-minute start to the second half as we’ve had all season,” Kennedy said. “I’d like to see us sustain that.”
Next up for Ole Miss is a 3 p.m. game Sunday at home against Mercer.
* On the defensive play of Sebastian Saiz – “He’s getting better. This is his tenth game in college. Everyday’s a learning experience. He’s a willing learner. He listens.”
* On the team’s rebounding – “We’ve got a huge issue, and that’s obvious to everyone who watches us. We got outrebounded by 21 the last game. We got outrebounded by 12 this game. I’m playing post guys major, major minutes, and they’re not producing. I’ve got to re-evaluate maybe going forward what we’re going to do. But it’s just not satisfactory when the other team has 20 offensive rebounds on you, and they’re just beating you to balls.”
* On alternate plans at this point in addressing those inside deficiencies – “That’s a good question. I’ve got to try to figure something out. I don’t know what that would be. We’re already zoning a good bit, because we’re small. Zone made us passive a little bit tonight. We’ll just have to figure some things out.”
* On LaDarius White – “I thought it was his best game overall. He gives us size. I thought coming into this season this team would have more versatility than we’ve shown to this point. With Snoop at 6-6 and 210 pounds, and with Anthony (Perez) at 6-9 and 200 pounds, I thought we could play over most wings. Anthony is just not strong enough yet to finish through people. But I thought tonight Snoop was in attack mode from jump. He did a good job of creating shot opportunities. Snoop did a great job penetrating. I was really proud of him, and I thought he was locked in defensively as well.”
* On Derrick Millinghaus not playing in the first half but playing 14 minutes in the second half – “A disciplinary step.”
— Jeff Roberson, OMSpirit.com