Rebels Knock Off UT Martin in Season Opener





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By Dylan Edwards, OleMissSports.com

OXFORD, Miss.
- Ole Miss did just enough in the season opener to begin the 2016-17 campaign as UT Martin's final two shots of the game did not fall to give the Rebels the 86-83 victory.

"UT Martin is going to win a lot of games," Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said. "They've got a good team. Their backcourt is as good, certainly, as we'll face."

In his first game as a Rebel, junior Deandre Burnett was the leading hand on offense for Ole Miss. After sitting out all of last year after transferring, he announced his presence by leading Ole Miss with 23 points. Burnett was a perfect 10-for-10 from the free throw line, including two at the end of the game to pull the lead to three.

"Deandre is going to make (his free throws)," Kennedy said. "We need him to do more than just put the ball in the basket. Then again, this is his first game since March 2015."

Sophomore Terence Davis provided a spark off the bench for Ole Miss with his athleticism, cutting through UT Martin's defense for career-high 19 points with an efficient 9-for-13 shooting.

The Rebels were able to get the win despite the team's leader Sebastian Saiz getting into early foul trouble and playing just 17 minutes. In the time he was on the floor, Saiz did show off his expanded range for this season by nailing a corner 3.

"Saiz, who needs to the anchor of this year's team, was a complete no-show because of fouls," Kennedy said. "That's his fault and our fault, but he can't be a no-show. We should feel fortunate that we were able to win the game."

Justas Furmanavicius picked up the slack on the boards without Saiz, grabbing a game-high 13 rebounds.

UT Martin's hot shooting controlled much of the first half. The Skyhawks shot 50 percent from the field with four players scoring seven points or more. With 2:30 left in the first half, UT Martin had built up a nine-point lead and seemed to have Ole Miss on its heels. That's when the Rebels began to come alive.

Ole Miss scored the final six points of the half to pull the halftime deficit to only three, but the 15-minute break didn't hamper the Rebels momentum. Ole Miss scored the first five points of the second half to grab a lead.

While Ole Miss never relinquished that lead, the close of the game was certainly eventful. Ole Miss built up a second half lead of as many as 11 points with just over four minutes to play, but UT Martin was not going to go away quietly.

The Skyhawks took advantage of Ole Miss turnovers to quickly cause that 11-point lead to disappear. Nine straight points over the next two minutes, and the Rebels went from a comfortable lead to a nail-biter finish.

It seemed, again, that Ole Miss had done enough when a Furmanvicius free throw put the lead at six with only 61 seconds to play, but once again UT Martin refused to go away. Two free throws and a 3-pointer meant Ole Miss needed a pair of Burnett free throws as well as a defensive stand to close out the win.


 

 

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