OXFORD – Terrico White led four players in double figures, and Ole Miss turned up for a step up in competition with a 90-53 win over Alabama State before a crowd of 5,416 at Tad Smith Coliseum Monday night.
Still minus guard Terrence Henry who is out with an arm injury, Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy used nine players until the game was out of hand.
Henry is expected to be available later this week when the team plays three games in Puerto Rico. The Rebels will face Indiana on Thursday.
White finished with 19 points on 6-for-13 shooting.
Junior guard Eniel Polynice had the stat line of the evening with 17 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and four steals.
“That’s the game EP needs to strive for,” Kennedy said. “He needs to be a guy who contributes in a lot of different ways.”
Polynice says he’s up to the challenge.
“With me working hard and putting in the time and effort and listening to my coaches, I should be around those numbers every game,” he said. “My knees are healthy. I’ve gotten stronger and wiser. The surgery made me do a lot of thinking. You can’t take days off, can’t take the game for granted.”
Ole Miss held Alabama State to 28.6 percent field goal shooting. The Rebels blocked 10 shots, five of them from freshman Reggie Buckner, who has nine blocks in two games.
“We can really pressure the basketball, and when that happens people resort to driving, and we finally have a couple of people who can block shots,” Kennedy said. “Obviously that’s a gift for Buckner. He can really block shots.”
The Hornets (0-1), SWAC champions a year ago, guarded hard on the perimeter, holding the Rebels (2-0) to 33.3 percent shooting from the arc.
Absent the electric 3-pointers, the Rebels got it done with defense and transition and by just executing the halfcourt offense.
The Rebels had five blocked shots and nine steals in the first half en route to a 43-24 lead. Ole Miss used a 14-2 run to take a 35-17 lead on two Zach Graham free throws with 4:58 left in the half. Graham finished with 11 points.
Kennedy played his starters together a little longer at the game’s outset than in Friday’s season-opening win over Arkansas-Little Rock.
The Rebels were 3-for-9 from the arc in the first half, but Chris Warren was getting to the rim. He scored all 12 of his points in the first half on 5-for-9 shooting. He was 0-for-3 from the floor in the second half.
Trevor Gaskins continued the defensive intensity early in the second half with two steals, the first leading to an assist to Graham, the second to his own layup.
“Alabama State has a tough team. They’re not going to give you anything, and that’s why I schedule them,” Kennedy said. “I thought we were lethargic with some turnovers early. We’re still not valuing the ball and the level I think we need to.”
Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal