Day After Observations

Notes and thoughts from the Rebels’ 80-67 win over Rutgers …

While the Rebels won their first five games by dominant scores, they also went through stretches of lethargic play more than once. That happens. Few teams are going to control the opponent wire to wire every night.

Witnessing Ole Miss struggle offensively in the first half against Rutgers, I thought they were playing with fire. Rutgers had a competitive inside game, not the best the Rebels will see, but they weren’t hesitant at all about pounding the ball inside and challenging Reggie Buckner, and Buckner held his own.

Defense like that kept the game in hand while the offense was just 6-for-21 from the free throw line and shot 35.3 percent from the field in the first half. Ole Miss was in the double bonus for around 13 minutes, but that was no problem for Rutgers, because of the Rebels’ constant misses at the free throw line.

They won’t be able to blow off opportunities like that all year.

They were able to yesterday, because of their defense against Eli Carter, a 6-2 guard, who was getting 18 points a game. He finished with 10 points on 1-for-12 shooting.

Here’s Rutgers coach Mike Rice. He praised the Rebels’ senior leadership and called the game “an early conference game” because of the physicality from both sides.

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What Rutgers does from here remains to be seen. There’s experience in the frontcourt, the guards are sophomores. It’s a team that was 6-12 in the Big East last year.

“We hope Rutgers goes on and beats some of them big ‘ol Big East teams and boosts us up,” Murphy Holloway said.

Before yesterday, Rutgers had not played a team in the RPI 150.

Numerically, the Rebels will face a better team on the road this Saturday at Middle Tennessee. Middle is 5-1 with an RPI of 61. Its loss was by 21 against Florida in Tampa.

The Ole Miss RPI is 48 after the Rutgers win.

The playing rotation shrunk a little yesterday, but it’s hard to get a real read on that since Martavious Newby was held out. If he eats the pre-game meal he’ll play against Middle, and the Rebels need him and the defensive energy he brings.

They need Marshall Henderson to snap out of his 3-point shooting woes too. He hit a couple of well-timed big ones yesterday. There is that potential, and that’s why he’ll continue to get the minutes, but he’s 7-for-34 from the arc over the last three games after a 3-for-12 day against Rutgers.

While Henderson wasn’t hitting throughout, the Rebels got great minutes from LaDarius White, who was 5-for-6 from the floor, 3-for-4 from 3 in 26 minutes.

Only four reserves played, and only Anthony Perez played as many as 10 minutes other than White. Pereze is a hustler, and his skill set is keeping him on the floor, even though he’s yet to figure prominently in a box score.

Denham Springs, La., native, Mississippian since 1989 with a stop in Meridian before arriving in Tupelo. Daily Journal beat writer since 1996, covering Ole Miss since 2002. Proud Northeast Louisiana alum. Follow me on Twitter @parrishalford and listen to Kory Keys and myself daily with The Ole Miss Beat on Rebel Sports Radio.

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