Ole Miss men’s basketball showed off a roster full of new additions, and some returners picked up right where they left off in a 91-62 exhibition victory for the Rebels over West Georgia at SJB Pavilion on Tuesday night.
Ole Miss sports eight new faces for the 2022-23 season, and all 14 active players for the Rebels on Tuesday got into the game and played at least six minutes. The Rebels shot 53.6 percent overall on the night, helped greatly by a revamped presence down low that scored 60 of Ole Miss’ 91 points in the game. That translated on the defensive end as well, as Ole Miss stifled West Georgia to 33.8 percent shooting from the floor and 20 percent from three, while also blocking seven shots on the night.
“We got all 14 guys on the floor,” said Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis with a chuckle after a tough 2021-22 season beleaguered by crucial injuries. “That is the biggest positive, we’ve got all 14 guys. And it took us until about two days ago to get everybody together. I think that’s the key, knock on wood, to keep this team healthy and together. Obviously, we’ve got to get our numbers down, and that may take us awhile. We’ve had a couple of guys separate, but for guys to really separate themselves. Practice over the next four or five days will be critical.”
It was a mix of new and old that helped propel the Rebels on Tuesday, and leading the charge were returning junior Jaemyn Brakefield and senior transfer Jayveous McKinnis, who combined for 30 points, 14 rebounds, three assists and three steals on a total line of 13-of-15 from the field.
For Brakefield, he ended the night with 16 points, eight boards and a steal and assist apiece while shooting a near-perfect 7-of-8 from the floor in just 21 minutes of action.
“(Brakefield over the summer) has led us in our points department, plus all the toughness plays,” Davis said. “He’s led us in assist to turnovers, it’s one of the lowest we’ve got in defensive breakdowns, so he’s been that way. He played good, he played with a purpose. He went back and rebounded the ball tonight. He’s gotta make those open threes, and he will, but it was good to see him play well, and he’s practiced just like that.”
McKinnis, a three-time SWAC Defensive Player of the Year while at Jackson State, brought energy off the bench for the Rebels with 14 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals on a 6-of-7 line from the floor – including a couple of thunderous dunks.
“It was good just to see the fans out there and playing with my team and doing what I do,” McKinnis said. “Coming off the bench or if I’m starting, I just want to bring energy to the team.”
Junior Matthew Murrell, one of the top returning three-point shooters in the SEC, had a strong night at the office as well with 13 points and three trifectas in a team-high 25 minutes of game action. Other impressive Rebel outings included senior transfer Theo Akwuba’s dominant night on the block at 11 points, five boards and four blocks, as well as James White (nine points), Myles Burns (eight points) and a bevy of Rebels with at least multiple assists – led by freshman Amaree Abram’s six dimes out of 26 total for Ole Miss.
“It just shows you how deep we are as a team and the depth we’ve got,” Brakefield said. “We can have any starting five any night, it doesn’t matter. We trust anybody that comes off the bench. Our main focus is to be aggressive, any five that’s on the court.”
Sophomore guard Daeshun Ruffin saw limited time in his return from a torn ACL last season, scoring six points and dishing out three assists in 16 minutes. Other Rebels returning from injuries saw constructive game time, such as senior transfer Josh Mballa (six minutes, two points), senior Robert Allen (six minutes, three rebounds) and freshman Robert Cowherd (six minutes).
“(Mballa) had been out awhile, that’s the longest he’s gone up-and-down,” Davis said. “It was good, you can tell he’s gonna be a really good player. He got a little tired today and got fatigued, but it’s just good to see him out and playing. He’s kind of a shell of himself of what he’ll be here in about a month. Same thing for even Daeshun, we saw that even last year. It will take him about two or three weeks and boom, he’ll pop and get his conditioning and his feet back under him.”
Ole Miss now looks ahead to the 2022-23 regular season, which is slated to begin next Monday, November 7, when Alcorn State comes to town for a late-night 8 p.m. CT tipoff inside SJB Pavilion.
“That’s what the exhibition is for,” Davis said. “All 14 guys played and got some experience, and now the live bullets start coming at us.”
Courtesy of Ole Miss Sports