REBELS ROUT LSU WITH DEFENSE
By Chris Burrows
OXFORD – How much has Ole Miss improved this season? Would you believe the Rebels can fail to play particularly well for one half at home and still win?
That’s exactly what happened Wednesday night before 4,416 in Tad Smith Coliseum. The Rebels defeated LSU 75-48 in the season’s final home game, improving to 12-13 overall and 6-9 in SEC play.
“I don’t think anybody would’ve believed that kind of scenario back in December,” Rebel head coach Rob Evans said. “But this is a different club than back in December. We’re a much, much better team.”
The win assured Ole Miss won’t finish in the Western Division cellar, despite an 0-5 SEC start. LSU (12-15, 4-11) will finish last, while the Rebels have an edge over Auburn (6-9) in a tie-breaker situation for the No. 4 seed.
Alabama (8-7), which hosts Ole Miss in Saturday’s 2 p.m. regular season finale, will finish no worse than the No. 3 seed after a win over Arkansas (8-7).
The Rebels came out in the road red uniforms and played like a team that had lost five consecutive games in that attire. In the first half, Ole Miss shot 40 percent from the field and only 8-of-17 from the free throw line.
Defense proved to be the club’s saving grace, holding LSU to 13 first-half points. Ole Miss forced 14 turnovers and limited the Tigers to 4-of-25 from the field, taking a 30-13 halftime edge.
“Our defense has been so solid that when we shoot 45 percent, we’re in great position to win,” said Evans, whose club finished by shooting 45.3 percent, hitting 29-of-63 from the field.
“There are nights you don’t shoot well. There are nights when you can’t get a break. But there should never be a night when you aren’t good defensively. This team is good defensively.”
Ole Miss picked up the offensive pace in the second half, opening with a 12-5 spurt that settled it. The only bad news in the second half was sophomore forward Anthony Boone reinjuring his left knee. His status for the remainder of the season will be determined after an MRI today.
Ansu Sesay and Keith Carter led the Rebels with 15 and 13 points, respectively. Nine different players had a basket, including walk-on senior Marlon Childs, who drew the night’s biggest ovation.
Roman Rubchenko, the senior from Cherkassy, Ukraine, led LSU with 19 points while Maurice Carter had 11. The Tigers close the regular season by hosting Arkansas.
“This club has come so far and played so well at home, it’s very gratifying,” Evans said. “But we’ve still got goals this season we want to reach.”