By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – On “Black Friday,” Trevor Gaskins was red hot, and Ole Miss picked up more than a bargain basement victory in an 81-74 win over Penn State.
A Tad Smith Coliseum crowd of 6,564 watched the Rebels match a school record with 13 3-pointers. Six of them came from Gaskins, who had a career-high 24 points. Gaskins was 6 for 11 from 3-point range, 9 for 14 from the floor.
“I started him because I thought he’d be our best defensive matchup on Talor Battle early,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said.
As it turned out, the top returning scorer in the Big 10, Battle, a 6-foot guard, had a game-high 26 points and was 5 for 8 from 3-point range.
But Gaskins kept pace. He also had three rebounds, three assists and no turnovers in 28 minutes.
Kennedy was concerned about how his team would respond after a difficult home loss against Dayton last week, a huge RPI boost that got away when the Rebels couldn’t hold a 16-point second-half lead after a knee injury to forward Reggie Buckner, the team’s best low-post defender.
The Rebels (3-1) had two other players in double figures, Chris Warren with 20 points and Nick Williams with 15.
Buckner, whose status was unclear throughout the week, did not start but played 21 minutes. He attempted only one field goal and finished with two points, four rebounds, two assists and five blocked shots.
“We felt like against Dayton we laid down and beat ourselves. We weren’t going to let that happen again,” Warren said.
It helped Ole Miss that there were no classes during the week, players said.
“We put in major reps in practice the whole week,” Gaskins said. “The guards shot 100 2s and 200 3s. That was Monday through Thursday, and it paid off.”
Kennedy singled out several players for individual improvement in a week’s time, most notably forward Terrance Henry, who was 4 for 11 from the free throw line against Dayton but 7 for 8 against Penn State (4-1).
Both teams were shooting better than 50 percent for most of the first half. The Rebels got a couple of defensive stops late in the half to lower the Nittany Lions’ percentage to 44.2 at the break when Ole Miss led 40-34.
Decisive run for Rebels
It was a 60-57 lead with 8 minutes, 27 seconds left when Ole Miss went on an 11-2 run to go up 71-59 when Henry tipped in a Gaskins miss with 4:55 left.
The Rebels got the free throws and offensive rebounds they didn’t get against Dayton to close out the win.
Ole Miss finished one of its biggest possessions down the stretch by running 1:37 off the clock with two offensive rebounds before Williams hit a 3 with an assist from Warren. The Rebels’ lead was 76-64 with 2:24 left.
“That was huge. That was how Dayton beat us,” Kennedy said. “The same things happened to us that night on the other side. Tonight, we only missed 25 shots, and we got 13 offensive rebounds. That speaks to our activities on the inside.”