There’s still lots of basketball to be played, but you can’t overstate the excitement around Ole Miss basketball right now.
Fans not only turned out for the Arkansas game, they were in their seats early and stayed through the lights fiasco.
In recent years, big crowds at Tad Smith would include a big contingent of traveling fans. This time it was Ole Miss fans buying all the tickets.
The crowd didn’t just attend, it was active.
A pocket of road fans could have given Arkansas a lift when it rallied from 13 points back to tie the game at 52 with 10:07 remaining, but that pocket wasn’t there.
That’s when Ole Miss finally got its 3-balls to fall, and the Rebels rebuilt their 13-point lead.
Marshall Henderson continues to show that even when he’s missing shots – and he wasn’t missing them badly – there’s the potential for a hot streak. He missed his first seven 3-pointers then hit his last three.
And it wasn’t just Henderson who helped the Rebels pull away. He had help. Nick Williams, one of the team’s best 3-point shooters last year, had hit more than one 3-pointer in a game just once over the previous 11 games. He was 3-for-5 from the arc, and the Rebels, 0-for-8 from 3 in the first half, were 6-for-12 in the second.
Jarvis Summers had another big game at point guard. It was just a couple of weeks ago, prior to the start of SEC play, that Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said he was looking for someone to “take the reigns” at point guard.
Here’s video from Arkansas coach Mike Anderson. He had good things to say about the Rebels’ upperclassmen and good things to say about Summers.
Summers at times had a hard time with Arkansas’ pressure, but as Kennedy pointed out, that was often when he got too deep into the lane. He finished with a season-high five turnovers, but he also had 14 points on 6-for-11 shooting, and a season-high seven assists.
Summers has asserted himself on offense in SEC play, averaging 14 points in the 4-0 start.
Freshman Derrick Millinghaus will turn in some big minutes, but he was not a factor against the Razorbacks.
Ole Miss really bothered Arkansas with that half-court trap, but Arkansas, likewise, made things tough for Ole Miss with its zone defense until the Rebels started knocking down some perimeter shots.
The Rebels were plus-4 on the glass with Murphy Holloway getting 11 rebounds, Reggie Buckner 10. They had double-doubles, Holloway with 15 points, Buckner with 10.
The impressive thing about Ole Miss was the diversity of its scoring. Henderson finished with 16, but there were four others in double figures.
The Rebels had the defensive energy they showed against Missouri a week ago but lacked in the first half at Vanderbilt.
It’s possible the Rebels could crack the Top 25 this week. The No. 25 (Marquette) and No. 24 (UCLA) teams lost, and No. 17 Missouri lost by 31 at Florida.
The Rebels gained some attention for Henderson’s late 3-pointer at Vanderbilt and a little more, perhaps, for the lights going out then finishing strong at home. It’s easier to get ranked from the receiving votes category – and Ole Miss was fourth there in the latest AP poll – than from gaining no mention at all.
More important than the possible ranking is the fact that Warren Nolan had the Rebels at a very respectable 33 in the RPI after the Arkansas game. That number will fluctuate a lot over the remainder of the season, but if it can be 33 when the dust settles, that’s a very respectable number for an NCAA bid.