REBELS RIP VANDERBILT WITH BEST GAME OF THE SEASON
By Chris Burrows
OXFORD Go ahead. Even Ole Miss head coach Rob Evans admitted it. The Rebels played their best basketball game of the season Saturday night.
Racing to a 21-4 lead after 10 minutes, Ole Miss went on to whip Vanderbilt 78-55 before 3,910 in Tad Smith Coliseum.
“Absolutely it was our best game, especially on both ends of the floor,” said Evans, whose club improved to 9-11 overall and 3-7 in the SEC. “Our maturity is starting to show more frequently.”
Never more clearly was the maturity evident than the initial 10 minutes Saturday. Ole Miss was up 21-4 and Vandy’s leading scorer, guard Frank Seckar, had not taken a shot.
“Yeah, a 21-4 lead is something we’re not used to,” admitted Rebel point guard Michael White, who drew the assignment of guarding Seckar in man-to-man defense. “But we came out focused and played real smart.”
Vanderbilt never got closer than eight points again. If any doubt remained, Ole Miss erased it with a 14-4 spurt to open the second half. The game’s biggest lead came after Joezon Darby buried a 3-point shot for a 59-33 cushion. The Rebels cruised in from there.
“Three or four weeks ago, we weren’t good enough or mature enough to beat this team,” Evans said. “But we are now. It’s gratifying to see our players continuing to get better.”
Anthony Boone had his third double-double this season, hitting for 15 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Darby led the offensive effort with 17 points while Ansu Sesay poured in 14. Nine Rebels had at least one basket.
“Everybody had a part in it tonight,” White said. “Something that wouldn’t show up in the box score is Sue (Ansu Sesay) helping me out on back screens with Seckar.
“That’s the kind of thing we got all night. It’s great. We’re a team that’s getting better. The crowd got with it and they made a difference, too.”
The Commodores (14-9, 4-6) got 11 points from forward Pax Whitehead. Drew Maddux and Seckar, the high-scoring guard combination, had nine points apiece. The Rebels limited Vandy to 17-of-46 from the field, 37 percent.
“Ole Miss plays as hard as anybody in the league, including Kentucky,” Vanderbilt coach Jan van Breda Kolff said. “We knew we had to match their intensity and we did not. And the result is the result.”