By Denis Gorman
NEW YORK – Ole Miss men’s coach Andy Kennedy professed not to know what kind of team his Rebels are six weeks into the 2013-14 season.
But what he saw Friday afternoon has made him excited for what may lay ahead.
“I learned I liked our team’s fight,” Kennedy said after Ole Miss topped Georgia Tech, 77-67, on the opening day of the Barclays Center Classic.
“I thought we exuded toughness early. We wanted to be aggressive. We attacked the game.”
Derrick Millinghaus had 16 points to lead the Rebels and Marshall Henderson and Demarco Cox each added 15 for Ole Miss, which improved to 5-0 this season. Cox also grabbed 13 rebounds.
The Rebels play Penn State (5-1)in the tourney’s championship game today at 3:30 p.m.
“These games you challenge yourself against big, fast, strong guys from higher level programs,” Kennedy said. “Our objective was, when we leave Brooklyn we want to have a much better feel as to who we are going forward.”
Georgia Tech will play in the early season tournament’s consolation game. The Yellow Jackets fell to 5-2.
Solomon Poole led Georgia Tech with 24 points. Robert Carter Jr. added 11 points and 13 rebounds. Trae Golden and Marcus Georges-Hunt chipped in with 10 points apiece.
“We have to figure out as a team how we’re going to be successful,” Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory said. “We were a very good defensive team last year. We have a lot of those pieces back and we’re not (a good defensive team) right now. We’re not.
“We’re not quite as good as we think we are.”
Ole Miss took control with an 18-7 run spanning 6:08 in the first half. Henderson started the run with consecutive three pointers, and later he added a third made three.
Off the bench
Henderson shot 5-of-16 from the field, including 4-for-14 from three, in 27 minutes. One of the stars of the 2013 NCAA Tournament, Henderson has become a reserve in the early part of this season.
“For the future he will (come off the bench. Saturday), he will,” Kennedy said of Henderson, who was suspended by the program in July. Henderson had been stopped by police in Oxford, Miss., in May for possession of marijuana and cocaine.
“(He’s a) work in progress,” Kennedy added.
At the half, the Rebels led 35-21 on 40.6 percent shooting from the field, including 46.2 percent from three.
By comparison, Georgia Tech only made 7 of 34 shots from the field in the first half, and were 1 for 10 from 3-point range.
“Their defensive intensity was good,” Gregory said of Ole Miss. “We missed a lot of shots from around the basket. Robert Carter, six misses were all quality shots. (Georges-Hunt) misses around the basket were good shots as well. (Kammeon Holsey) was 1 for 4, you have to make some of those shots. When you don’t it puts a lot of pressure on your defense.
“Some of our offense led to easy baskets for them. Plus if we’re going to take a shot, we’re going to take it like we mean it. Sometimes we make a move and shoot it tentatively. You can’t be successful that way.”
The Yellow Jackets shooting improved in the second half, as they made 16 of 29 from the field and 6 of 10 from three.
The Ole Miss lead grew to as much as 21 in the second half. The Rebels finished the game shooting 43.5 percent from the field.
Tim Frazier scored six of his game-high 29 points in overtime to lead Penn State to an 89-82 win over St. John’s in the second game.