Notes and thoughts from Ole Miss’ 85-78 win over Vanderbilt …
First, an apology to Mrs. Gielo. On a night with unusually balanced scoring and offensive contributions all around, I left out Tomasz Gielo in the print edition story as a double-figure scorer.
Gielo put together a really solid game for the second-straight outing. He didn’t shoot as well from 3 as he did at Missouri, but he was 2-for-6 behind the arc and 3-for-7 in front of it. He was 4-for-4 at the free throw line and finished with 16 points in 29 minutes off the bench.
Gielo has now posted double-figure scoring games back-to-back for the first time in conference play.
The post-graduate transfer thing is still relatively new to college basketball. You may recall it was this time of the season last year that M.J. Rhett really hit his stride and gave Ole Miss a lift.
From a pure talent standpoint the Rebels had no business beating Vanderbilt, but circumstances often change things during a game.
In spite of its two 7-footers in the lineup Vanderbilt is not a particularly good rebounding team.
The Rebels showed a different level of hustle and energy and were able to exploit that. About half of their 85 points came off either a Vanderbilt turnover or a second-chance shot opportunity. The Rebels, once again without their leading rebounder, Sebastian Saiz, were able to go plus-3 on the glass but also an impressive plus-8 in offensive rebounding.
Ole Miss had a 25-6 edge in second-chance scoring against a team with two 7-footers.
One of those Vanderbilt 7-footers, center Damian Jones, who averages 13.5 points and 7.0 rebounds, got in early foul trouble and played only 17 minutes. He fouled out with 8:05 to play and wasn’t around to affect the Rebels’ decisive 13-6 run.
Ole Miss also committed just 10 turnovers to Vanderbilt’s 19. Vanderbilt looked lazy with the ball and paid for that with some dangerous cross-court passes.
Vanderbilt began the night as the No. 2 3-point shooting team in the SEC and hit five of its first 11 from the arc, but that Ole Miss effort on defense helped change that narrative. The Commodores hit four of their last 17 3-point attempts. They shot just 28.6 percent from the arc in the second half, about 13 points below their average.
That being said, you could see flashes of Vanderbilt’s talent with Luke Kornet, one of those 7-footers, knocking down 3-point shots and also putting it on the floor to get to the rim. You could see it with point guard Wade Baldwin grabbing a lazy pass from Rasheed Brooks then taking it the other way to the rim and finishing through contact from Brooks.
It was impressive how fast Vanderbilt erased a 13-point deficit with 5:44 on the clock.
But they did, and it forced Ole Miss to make gutsy plays and tough shots.
It forced Brooks to hit another 3-pointer – He was 3-for-5 from the arc on the night – and Perez to score five of his nine points in that decisive run.
There was roughly a minute left to play with Ole Miss nursing a six-point lead when the Rebels were trying to get the ball to Stefan Moody, their best big-shot maker. It’s amazing that I’ve gotten so deep into this account without mentioning Moody, but there’s plenty Moody to come.
The Rebels couldn’t find him on this possession, and finally with the shot clock running down, Perez put the ball on the floor and hit a floater off the right side. He was fouled and hit the free throw too. Finishing at the rim isn’t Perez’ strong point, but he did it at a most opportune time for Ole Miss.
Moody’s health looked the best that it has since he pulled his hamstring late in the South Carolina game on Jan. 19. He got inside the lane and was 10-for-10 at the free throw line, his most free throw attempts since the injury.
That off-set a terrible shooting percentage night. Moody entered the game having hit 14 of his last 30 3-point attempts. At one point last night he was 1-for-10 from the arc and would finish 3-for-15 there and 5-for-25 overall.
Vanderbilt is now 13-10 overall, 5-5 in the SEC. Commodores fans, a few of them boisterous behind the Vanderbilt bench, had hoped their team had turned a corner after shellacking No. 8 Texas A&M last week.
It’s been a season of under achievement for a Vandy team picked second in the SEC and projected by at least one national analyst as a dark-horse Final Four candidate.
Andy Kennedy picked them to win the league on his coaches poll ballot.
So given all that information and the Rebels’ known struggles to defend the 3 it seemed like quite a difficult matchup for Ole Miss.
Had you known on the front end Moody would shoot so poorly you’d like the Rebels’ chances even less.
But Ole Miss got its most balanced scoring of the year. Players not named Moody who have made shots at various times made them at the same time.
There was effort and intensity on defense and big plays at clutch times.
One impressive win does not a turnaround make, but Kennedy in his postgame comments threw open the possibility that this team could play its way back into NCAA consideration, especially if Saiz can return next week as Kennedy hopes.
We’ll see. Once big game is an isolated incident. It’s too early to say this is a trend, and the Rebels have road trips to Florida and Texas A&M coming up in two of their next three games.
We may know a lot more about this team then.