By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – In the competition for minutes on the floor Dundrecous Nelson made a strong statement to keep what he’s getting and perhaps add a few more.
Nelson, a sophomore from Jackson, was 5-for-9 from 3-point range and scored 21 points to lead the Rebels to a 66-54 win over Louisiana-Lafayette before a Tad Smith Coliseum crowd of 4,857 Wednesday night.
It’s the sixth straight win for the Rebels.
Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy has talked about the increasing competition for playing time as more players become eligible and as roles become more clearly defined with SEC play around the corner.
The final piece to the puzzle, Memphis transfer Jelan Kendrick, was expected to make his debut but was held out for what Kennedy called a “coach’s decision.”
It’s unclear when Kendrick, a McDonald’s high school All-American from Atlanta, will play his first game for Ole Miss.
Recovering from sports hernia surgery, Kendrick had been cleared to compete and had returned to practice.
“He’s not ready to put on the uniform yet. To me, that’s a big deal,” Kennedy said. “Until he’s ready physically and emotionally, that plays into it.”
La.-Lafayette, coached by Tupelo native Bob Marlin, held the Rebels to single-digit points until Nelson knocked down his first 3-pointer to tie the game at 12 with 9 minutes, 6 seconds left in the first half.
The Rebels (9-1) began to score in bunches in transition and with Nick Williams in the mid-range game. They built a 14-point lead, only to see the Cajuns (5-7) close with 9-2 run to make it 34-27 at the half.
Turnovers were a problem in the slow start. The Rebels had given it away seven times less than nine minutes into the game but turned it over just seven more times the last 31 minutes.
Williams finished with 12 points on 5-for-11 shooting.
The Cajuns outrebounded the Rebels 35-34, but Ole Miss forward Murphy Holloway had a game-high 11 rebounds.
Nelson’s outburst followed a strong second half against Mississippi Valley State last Saturday in which he scored 14 points. He did not play in the first half, a “coach’s decision” suspension.
Against Lafayette his shot was falling early, but decision-making was sometimes a problem. After a rushed and off-balance 3-point attempt fell short in the second half, Kennedy pulled Nelson for a few minutes.
“I do expect that, but I don’t condone it,” Kennedy said.
Teammates, though, may see Nelson’s decision-making as a risk-reward proposition.
“That’s Dreke. You’ve got to take the bad with the good,” Williams said.
The Rebels’ lead peaked at 19 with 7:09 left in the game.
Nelson played off the bench for the sixth-straight game, a fact that contributed to a 28-7 edge in bench scoring for Ole Miss.
“I found my shot early,” he said. “I’ve been working on it for the last few weeks. Coach told me to let it go, and that’s what I did.”