In college basketball there is a stigma that goes along with losing your exhibition game, and Ole Miss avoided that — narrowly — Friday night.
That being said, you shouldn’t read too much into exhibition play. Andy Kennedy was going to play as many players and as many different combinations as he could in his only chance for guys to get game-like experience when winning and losing really didn’t matter.
There was still a lot to take from a 75-70 overtime win over South Carolina-Aiken, some of it good, some of it not.
I know Aiken is a good team on its level, one of the best in Division II.
That will be of little comfort to the Rebels if they continue to give up defensive position in the post this Friday against Troy. Aiken was 6-for-9 in the lane in the first half not counting a couple of layups. Post defense was a little better in the second half, but 5-for-13 still requires improvement.
A few players notes here:
– Martavious Newby played with a higher level of focus and discipline than I remember and had a game-high 12 rebounds as a result. He attempted only three shots, making one, which goes back to discipline. Kennedy described Newby as a potential “weapon” last year. If he continues to play within the system he will become one.
– Anthony Perez did not show similar improvement. There was promise with his first shot, a floater in the lane, but he went on to finish 2-for-9 from the floor. Perez can create a shot for himself but has trouble scoring. He had four turnovers in 15 minutes and continues to be a work in progress.
– Janari Joesaar played only three minutes, but he looked comfortable and not intimidated. He was confident with the ball in his hands and didn’t try to do too much. He did not attempt a shot and had a rebound, a turnover and a steal.
– Aaron Jones and Demarco Cox both showed the rust you’d expect, particularly Jones. He’s got to finish shots at the rim more and give up defensive position less. He has a long way to go to be the player he was at the time of his knee injury against Kentucky. The upside is he’s been there, and he should get back there. Cox was better at 5-for-8 from the floor.
– Sebastian Saiz looks to be the farthest along of the two freshman bigs. He should help quickly, but he’s not going to step in and be a double-double guy.
– Free throw shooting must improve, particularly from Jarvis Summers, who was just 7-for-12. Derrick Millinghaus, who will also have the ball in his hands a lot and who was the guy handling it at the end, was 7-for-9 from the line. Ole Miss was just 12-for-20 from the line in regulation.
– No player looked comfortable as the scorer in place of Marshall Henderson. The most likely candidate is LaDarius White, and his numbers were OK — 5-for-13 FG, 2-for-5 3-pt FG, 13 points — but nobody approaches that role with the confidence than Henderson does. Not surprising.
But the Rebels are going to have to figure out the scoring thing quickly.