Rebels Remain Unbeaten with Comeback Victory
By Brian Scott Rippee, OleMissSports.com
It was the first time the Rebels had a seen a zone defense with any teeth to it. The Panthers ran a match up 1-3-1 on the defensive end of the floor that took Ole Miss time to solve it. The Rebels shot 42 percent from the field in the first half and found themselves trailing 44-36 because of it.
"That's what they do," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "It is very similar to what Georgia Tech runs. It is kind of an amoeba, a matchup zone. The biggest point is to try to disrupt you. We talked for three days about not settling."
Terence Davis had more success getting penetrating the Panthers' zone than anyone else in the first half. He scored 15 first half points on 5-of-9 shooting and was really Ole Miss' best semblance of offense for much of the first 20 minutes. Davis was tasked with matching Georgia State's D'Marcus Simonds production on the offensive end of the floor. The sophomore forward had 19 first half points and was giving Ole Miss fits inside.
"That was a pretty good zone," Davis said. "They were swarming to the ball. Once we got comfortable with it, we were attacking and passing and getting good shots."
Davis finished with 24 to lead Ole Miss in scoring. Simonds had 29 and was 10-of-22 from the field. Markel Crawford had 15 points for the Rebels, nine of which came from the free throw line.
The adjustments Ole Miss made in the second half are what helped elevate it to a win. It was getting out-rebounded 20-13 in the first half. The Rebels snared a couple of offensive rebounds in the first couple of possessions in the second half that led to Davis three-pointer. It sparked a 10-0 Ole Miss run out of the break to go ahead 46-44. Georgia State battled back to go up 50-46, and that's when Ole Miss went zone to try to neutralize the Panthers off of the dribble.
"They were toying with us with those high ball screens," Kennedy said. "Simonds is a heck of a player and was in complete control early on. We went back to that 2-3 zone to try to keep them in front of us. Dribble penetration was killing us all night. That was the reason for the move and I thought we were pretty good at it."
It worked. Georgia State shot 36 percent (8-of-23) from the field in the second half compared to 54 percent (16-of-30) in the opening 20 minutes and it allowed the Rebels to get back into the game.
"Definitely," Davis said. "Simonds is a good player with some NBA buzz. We had to go zone. They were eating us up."
Georgia State never made it easy on Ole Miss and tested them throughout. The Rebels won despite shooting just 44 percent (23-of-52) from the field and getting out-rebounded 35-33. The defense was good down the stretch. Bruce Stevens saw a lot of minutes at center in the second half in place of Dominik Olejniczak. Stevens played well, scoring eight points and snagging six rebounds. He and Marcanvis Hymon bolstered the Rebels' defense on the interior of that 2-3 zone.
"I just like his energy when he's out there," Kennedy said. "He gave us good minutes.
The teams traded small spurts of scoring for the first eight minutes of the second half before a 12-1 Rebel run midway through the second half helped them build a 61-54 lead the team wouldn't relinquish over the final eight minutes of the game. Breein Tyree had a couple of baskets that helped fuel the run. He finished with nine points. Crawford made four free throws late that helped ice the game, and the Rebels survived and earned a win that is likely to have more bite to it as Georgia State gets further into its season.
If nothing else, the Rebels showed the ability to get tough on the defensive end and find a way to win a game on a night in which they did not shoot the ball particularly well. The team passed an early season test before it hits the heart of its non-conference schedule.
"All three of these games have been valuable," Kennedy said. "I know all three of these teams are going to do very well throughout the course of the season. I have always said you are what your numbers say you are. These wins are going to help our numbers because these teams are going to have success."
Ole Miss heads off to Las Vegas for the MGM Grand Main Event. It will face Utah on Monday at 11:30 p.m. CT.
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