OLE MISS

Supporting Cast Lifts Rebels To Win

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Ole Miss hung its 2013 Southeastern Conference Tournament Champions banner from the rafters before the game, and the Rebels (10-4, 1-0 SEC) began their title defense with a 65-62 win over Auburn (8-4, 0-1 SEC) in the league opener Thursday night.

Without leading scorer and senior guard Marshall Henderson, four Rebels scored in double figures, led by sophomore guard Derrick Millinghaus with 16 points, followed by junior guard Jarvis Summers with 14.

"We found a way to win," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "Ultimately, that's what we were trying to do and were fortunate enough to do. I played guys heavy minutes. 

"Jarvis has been our MVP from day one this season, and he certainly didn't have his best game. He looked a little battle-fatigued. Derrick Millinghaus played 35 minutes. That's a lot. He made some big plays for us."

Ole Miss trailed 21-16 with 8:25 left in the first half when freshman forward Janari Joesaar checked into the game, his first action since the North Carolina A&T game on Nov. 26. 

Joesaar sparked a 9-0 run, hitting a 3-pointer and then scoring on a put-back, as the Rebels took a 31-28 lead into halftime. The Tartu, Estonia, native finished with five points and three rebounds in nine minutes, all career highs.

"It was an opportunity for him," Kennedy said. "With Anthony being down, and we had Snoop pick up two early fouls, so we went deeper into the bench than we have been. 

"They're zoning us, and the one thing Janari can do is make open shots. He gave us great minutes and good energy. I told the team that I thought he was the MVP of the game because when we were stagnant offensively, he gave us a big lift."

Early in the second half, Auburn went on a 10-0 run to take 38-33 lead before junior LaDarius White answered with a 3-pointer, his first points of the game. He then hit his second 3-pointer to tie the game at 41-41 with 10:39 left. He finished with 10 points, his first game scoring in double figures since the Louisiana-Monroe game on Dec. 18.

"Snoop stepped up," Kennedy said. "He missed a couple of big free throws. It would have been easy for him to drop his head, and then he stepped up and hit a huge three. He had a couple of really strong drives to the basket and was able to make some plays."

Down the stretch, junior forward Aaron Jones played big for the Rebels. He hit a jumper and then threw down a dunk to extend the lead to 62-57 with 1:46 left. He also grabbed a defensive rebound after a missed Auburn three-pointer when the Tigers were within three at 62-59. He filled up the stat sheet with 12 points, seven rebounds, five steals and five blocks.

Auburn had the ball down 65-62 with 16 seconds left, but the Tigers missed a three-pointer and were unable to corral the offensive rebound.

"The only guy on this year's team who had the same role as last year's team is Marshall Henderson, and he was not dressed out tonight," Kennedy said. "Everybody else has an expanded role, and with that comes more responsibility. You can't look around and think somebody is going to bail you out. Now, you're the guy, and you have to accept that responsibility, but that is a process"

Ole Miss continues SEC play on the road at Mississippi State on Saturday (3 p.m., ESPNU). The Bulldogs (10-4, 0-1 SEC) are coming off an 85-63 loss at No. 14 Kentucky in the SEC opener, having led 40-37 at halftime.

"They have the same cast as last year," Kennedy said. "Those guys have gotten older in Craig Sword, Fred Thomas, Gavin Ware, and Colin Borchert is a senior, so I know they have a number of different weapons. That place has never been very friendly to the Rebels."

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