OXFORD – Post players who have come under scrutiny on a guard-heavy roster stood tall on opening night for Ole Miss.
DeAundre Cranston scored a career-high 21 points, and Murphy Holloway added 17, as the Rebels turned back Arkansas-Little Rock 92-64 before a crowd of 5,870 at Tad Smith Coliseum Friday.
Ole Miss (1-0) was picked second in the SEC West largely on the reputation of its guards, most notably Terrico White and Chris Warren, both preseason All-SEC selections.
“Coach (Owen) Miller told us we should kill them inside. He said nobody thinks we have a frontcourt, and that we needed to show them it’s not all about the backcourt,” Holloway said. “This was a statement.”
While the statement was mostly good, the Trojans (0-1) did outrebound the Rebels (1-0) 39-38. They also had success getting around defenders early, scoring eight of their 11 first-half field goals in the paint or at the edge of it.
The Trojans also got to the free throw line 31 times but were able to make only 18 shots.
“We had a lack of communication coming off ball screens. It was more mental than physical,” Cranston said.
Cranston was 8-for-9 from the floor and 3-for-4 from 3-point range. He had seven rebounds and two assists. His night might have been bigger but two quick fouls in the second half got him out of the game.
Holloway backed his scoring with a game-high 10 rebounds, the seven double-double of his career.
With the Rebels’ guard bodying up against UALR junior Solomon Bozeman, the former Oxford High School star was held to a team-high 12 points on 3-for-10 shooting. Bozeman sat out a transfer year after playing two seasons at South Florida. He scored 27 in the team’s exhibition win.
“He’s a tremendous player, and we really wanted to make him work,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “We changed bodies and tried to wear him down, and once he gave it up, we tried not to let him get it back.”
Warren and White struggled to find their range Friday. White warmed up late in the second half and finished with 16 point on 6-for-12 shooting.
Warren had nine points, five assists and four steals in 27 minutes. He was 3-for-11 from the floor, 1-for-7 from 3-point range.
Cranston and Holloway had hot hands early as Ole Miss ran out to a 27-9 lead. UALR chipped away but was still 14 points back at the break.
White and Warren were a combined 3-for-12 from the floor in the first half.
“I was off and Chris was off, but we had other players step up,” White said. “Murphy stepped up big with the rebounding, and Cran really stepped up making those 3s. We have way more weapons than we had last year. Anybody can score 20-plus.”
NEMS Daily Journal