Ole Miss Picks Up Some Momentum With Tournament Title

Posted by Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) on December 1st, 2014

Finally, there is a team in the SEC other than Kentucky that is making some non-conference hay as Ole Miss went to Niceville, Florida and won the inaugural Emerald Coast Classic. The Rebels knocked off a ranked Creighton team on Friday and then Cincinnati on Saturday in the championship game. The wins were absolutely necessary to make amends for an overtime loss at home on opening night to Charleston Southern. Ole Miss was able to win the tournament because it brought an efficient offense down the Florida Panhandle. The Rebels shot 52.1 percent against the Blue Jays (25-of-48) and 49.0 percent against the Bearcats (25-of-51), and only turned the ball over 14 times over the course of both games. The Rebels lost a lot of offensive firepower when Marshall Henderson left, but that kind of execution will be just as hard to stop as Henderson’s scoring bursts were.

Stefan Moody led Ole Miss over Cincinnati in the Emerald Coast Classic title game (mississippi.scout.com).

Stefan Moody led Ole Miss over Cincinnati in the Emerald Coast Classic title game. (Getty)

The question going forward is whether Ole Miss can sustain that level of offensive efficiency. An encouraging sign for Andy Kennedy is that a number of players have been contributing this season. Jarvis Summers is the undisputed star and played that way against Creighton by scoring 23 points and not turning the ball over. But unlike the way it was with Henderson, the Rebels have not been entirely dependent on Summers carrying the scoring load. Stefan Moody took over against the Bearcats, scoring 26 points and going 3-of-7 from three point range. His outside shooting display was encouraging because he came into the game just 3-of-21 from deep. He essentially put the game out of reach early in the second half by scoring eight straight points to stretch the lead to from five to 13. Kennedy compared Moody’s quick-strike ability to Nate Robinson, and having him as an offensive threat should ease the pressure on Summers, who scored only eight points against the Bearcats. He’s so quick that he’ll be a tough cover if he can continue the outside shooting he showed against Cincinnati.

It hasn’t just been just Moody helping out Summers either. We predicted that depth would be one of the Rebels’ strengths coming into the season, and that appears to be the case after a slow start. Kennedy’s rotation has gone 11 deep at times this season, and he’s gotten consistent, and somewhat unexpected, contributions from Ladarius White (12.2 points per game, 18 against Creighton) and Martavious Newby (6.5 points per game, 5.7 rebounds per game). It hasn’t, however, been all rosy for the Rebels. They’ve struggled a bit on the glass this season, and corralled just 11 offensive rebounds over their two games in Niceville. The shots won’t always fall like they did in Florida and Ole Miss will be in trouble if it can’t create second chances. Kennedy has also gotten little-to-nothing from Aaron Jones and Anthony Perez this season, two upperclassmen that were expected to contribute. Newby, a guard, has been the team’s best rebounder and that isn’t conducive to winning a lot of games. Nonetheless, the trip to Florida was a big positive for the program.

The wins, which put Ole Miss at 5-1, probably still don’t do enough to put the Rebels on the national radar. An early win at home against Oklahoma has forced some to recalibrate their thinking on Creighton, but the Blue Jays still have a lot to prove in the Big East without All-American Doug McDermott, as well as Grant Gibbs and Ethan Wragge. Cincinnati is also replacing an All-American in Sean Kilpatrick. Both teams could end up having solid seasons, but it’s not likely either win will be a true attention-grabber. Still, the SEC as a whole has wilted against major conference teams in recent seasons, and you can never discount wins against teams from the Big East and American. Ole Miss gets another game like this right away with a matchup with a 7-0 TCU team coming off a win against Mississippi State. The Rebels then head to Eugene to play Oregon, and if they win both of those games, the SEC will quietly have a team positioning itself for NCAA tournament consideration.

Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) (231 Posts)

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