Day After Observations

Notes and thoughts from the Rebels’ 94-90 win over BYU while en route to Jacksonville later this morning and hopefully napping on the plane …

Ole Miss and BYU played one of the more entertaining games that you’ll see throughout this entire NCAA tournament.

It’s a lot easier for players to hear that after a win. I didn’t give the Rebels much chance to rally from 17 points back.

We talk shooting percentages a lot in this space. Andy Kennedy says if his team is shooting 45 percent it’s pretty efficient. The Rebels shot 45 percent last night, but this team had to shoot 60 percent in the second half to get there.

That’s what Ole Miss is. It’s been a slow-starting group but one that could get hot for a stretch. When the Rebels are winning they’re going to have one really strong half, and it’s not going to be solely based on 3-point shooting. That may be part of it, and last night it was, as Stefan Moody went 5-for-9 behind the arc, but most often this team gets hot when it creates offense with its defense.

When you’re 17 points back you’re not going to win by only hitting shots. You have to get some stops, and the Ole Miss trap was more effective in the second half. BYU seemed more bothered by it then, seemed to lack poise at some crucial moments. Ole Miss forced 10 second-half turnovers which led to 18 points. The Rebels had 25 points off 15 turnovers for the game, and gave up no – zero – points off turnovers.

Turnovers were a huge problem for Ole Miss in its SEC tournament loss to South Carolina. The Gamecocks forced 21 turnovers, but Ole Miss gave it away just seven times last night.

BYU came out from the get-go and did what it does and that’s knock down 3-point shots. The Cougars were 10-for-15 behind the arc in the first half.

Smart money says it would be hard for them to maintain that pace, but Ole Miss was next-to-last in the SEC in 3-point defense in the regular season.

The Rebels were able to get some stops after halftime and were finally able to exploit the BYU frontcourt which was athletically inferior.

The penetrate-and-pitch was working, and MJ Rhett was finishing at the rim, something the Ole Miss bigs don’t always do.

Rhett was 6-for-6 in the second half, 9-for-11 for the game. Not everything was a dunk. His jumper from the high post with 57.2 seconds left gave the Rebels a four-point lead.

The reality is none of this happens if Stefan Moody – or someone – doesn’t knock down shots.

LaDarius White was good early in the second half and kind of got the Rebels off to a good start.

Moody was 3-for-4 from the arc in the second half.

If those guys aren’t hitting from outside it’s a different ballgame.

Ole Miss was not going to win a shooting contest with BYU, but by hitting enough shots from outside the Rebels were able to exploit BYU’s frontcourt. The Cougars couldn’t just pack it in. Moody was on like he hasn’t been in a month and like he has to be for this team to have success.

If Moody and friends are hitting shots against Xavier they’ll give themselves a chance.

It’s a bit of a quick turnaround for Ole Miss but no different than a Thursday-Saturday SEC swing that you have a few times a year in the SEC Network Era.

The legs won’t come into play, really, until a third game, and La Salle proved two years ago that adrenaline can carry you even then.

Ole Miss may have won all its going to win in this NCAA tournament, but the win the Rebels earned last night – and the way they earned it – proves they belong in the field.

That’s something they didn’t prove much over the last two weeks. Many looked at their slide to the finish and questioned their at-large bid even for a First Four game.

Against BYU the Rebels played like the team they were a month ago, and the results were as they were a month ago.

Denham Springs, La., native, Mississippian since 1989 with a stop in Meridian before arriving in Tupelo. Daily Journal beat writer since 1996, covering Ole Miss since 2002. Proud Northeast Louisiana alum. Follow me on Twitter @parrishalford and listen to John Davis and myself daily with The Ole Miss Beat on Rebel Sports Radio.

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