Notes and thoughts from the Rebels’ 82-72 win over Georgia Southern …
The Rebels went into the regular season wanting to improve defensively from their exhibition showing against Clayton State.
They’ve managed to do that in two games and held Georgia Southern to just 31.3 percent shooting. The Eagles were about the same, 31.4 percent from 3-point range, so there was some defense going on out on the edge too.
The problem was Ole Miss shooting was hardly better at 36.4 percent, and the Rebels were terrible from outside at just 2-for-14 from the arc.
The good news for Ole Miss against a middling Sun Belt foe was that Sebastian Saiz was dominant. That dominance was due in part to the Eagles’ defensive strategy which called for them to switch off ball screens and often left Saiz with a matchup advantage that he won’t necessarily have in SEC play.
He had it last night, though, and had career highs with 24 points and 17 rebounds. He was 8-for-14 from the floor.
It was difficult for either team to establish much rhythm offensively because of the combined 80 free throws attempted off 58 called fouls.
That’s the thing this year. Officials have been told to basically call every foul they see. The idea is increase freedom of movement for the offensive player and therefore increase scoring.
It’s going to take a long time before players understand how they have to play defensively in this new age of college basketball officiating.
As long as officials call the games this way you’re going to have 2 1-2 hour games with frequent stoppages of play like we saw last night.
One of the good things the Rebels did was hit free throws. Ole Miss was a pretty good free throw shooting team last year and looks like it will be again this season.
Two years ago free throw shooting was not a strength, and the Rebels likely would have lost a 10-point game in which they shot 53 free throws.
Last night Ole Miss was 40-for-53 from the free throw line for 75.5 percent.
Three-point shots weren’t falling for Stefan Moody or anyone else, and Moody seemed reluctant to take the shots as the game went on.
It was a different approach, Andy Kennedy pointed out, than some Ole Miss players in the past who would just keep shooting.
Moody has the ability to get to the rim. Problem was last night those shots weren’t falling either. He finished just 3-for-12 from the floor, 1-for-5 from 3, but had 22 points because he was 15-for-17 from the free throw line.
The Rebels got next to nothing from the 4 spot, and that’s disturbing. Tomasz Gielo hit the first bucket of his Ole Miss career with 1:38 left in the first half. It turned out to be his only bucket as he was 1-for-3 on the night and is now 1-for-7 on the season.
Anthony Perez, Gielo’s backup at the 4, was 0-for-6.
Gielo was a career 40 percent 3-point guy at Liberty and, Kennedy says, has shot well at Ole Miss in off-season workouts. That left him hopeful that this year’s post-graduate transfer – a guy with only one year in the program – would get off to a faster start than did M.J. Rhett and Terence Smith last season.
Perez’ career inconsistency is the reason he is playing behind Gielo.
The competition will take a considerable step forward beginning Thursday when the Rebels take on George Mason then likely Oklahoma State on Friday in a neutral court event in Charleston, S.C.
The body of work says Moody will come back around, and it won’t take too long.
One of the things that is going to have to happen for Ole Miss to position itself for a run at the NCAA tournament is scoring from the 4, the big forward spot. We’re not seeing that yet.
Saiz does appear improved as a scoring threat in the low post. It will be interesting to see how he handles the next couple of games.
At point guard Sam Finley isn’t turning the ball over but isn’t sharing it much either, just three assists in two games. He seems to have a scorer’s mentality, but he’ll need to be better than 3-for-9 shooting for that to work.
I like the energy I’m seeing from Marcanvis Hymon as a low post reserve. He had six rebounds against Northwestern State and was on a nine-rebound pace last night with two in nine minutes of play. He also hit his only two field goal attempts, one a dunk. Keep an eye on Hymon.