By PARRISH ALFORD / NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Mississippi Valley State’s brief run in the second half got the Delta Devils within 13 points but was merely a blip on the radar in a 101-69 win for Ole Miss.
A sparse Tad Smith Coliseum gathering of 4,566 Monday night watched the Rebels crack the 100-point mark for the first time since scoring 108 against Centenary last season, reaching 101 on a bucket by freshman forward Demarco Cox with 1 minute, 29 seconds to play.
Ole Miss is back in action Saturday afternoon at 3 against East Tennessee State, which defeated Mississippi State 63-62 last Saturday.
Cox was 5 for 6 from the floor and had 10 points and six rebounds in 19 minutes. Just as important for Cox was the fact that he had only one foul.
“Demarco has a good presence offensively, and you can see his athleticism,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “He’s going to be a tremendous player for us. I think he’s been frustrated with his role early, but his role will increase.”
Ole Miss put six players in double figures, led by Chris Warren’s 18 points.
The Rebels shot 54.7 percent from the floor, held Valley to 35.9 percent and were plus-9 in rebound margin at 44-35.
The Delta Devils kept pace early, but things began to unravel around the mid-way point of the first half.
Key Ole Miss reserves Steadman Short, Cox and Dundrecous Nelson were in the game early and for extended minutes.
Before the half ended reserves Will Bogan and Donald Wilson were in the game, Bogan for the second time this season, Wilson the first.
The Rebels (6-2) had runs of 20-5 and 24-9 en route to a 52-26 halftime lead.
Valley had two technical fouls in the first half, one because Mark Holmes took the floor though he wasn’t entered in the official book, a second when coach Sean Woods spoke with a negative vibe – not for the first time – to an official.
The technicals weren’t the difference in the game but did lead to four points for the Rebels.
Aided by sloppy Ole Miss play in stretches, the Devils opened the second half on a 16-3 run, cutting their deficit to 55-42 before two free throws by Warren and a 3-pointer by Nelson helped the Rebels regain their footing.
The end result was the season’s second-worst beating for Valley (1-8), which has yet to play a home game.
“We were a little disengaged in the second half, but we picked it up at the end. It was good to get production from different guys,” Kennedy said.
Nelson, who was 6 for 9 from 3-point range over the last two games, would have played more in the first half if not for racking up fouls at an alarming rate, three in only five minutes. He collected himself, showed the athleticism Ole Miss fans have come to expect and finished with 10 points on 4 for 7 shooting. He was 2 for 5 behind the arc.
Cox, prone to foul trouble in earlier games, was cleaner defensively and more productive offensively. He didn’t pick up his first foul until there was 5:47 left to play.
Cox, 6-foot-8, reported at 323 pounds. He says he’s at 295 now. Kennedy would like him to shed a few more.
Cox was encouraged by his performance.
“There are parts of my game where I know what I’m doing, and there are some things I don’t know how to do. I feel like I’m in between,” he said.
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600