Norfolk St Mississippi Basketball

Ole Miss forward K.J. Buffen scored a game-high 23 points as the Rebels won again on Tuesday.

OXFORD Ole Miss will likely get last year’s starting power forward, Blake Hinson, back from an off-season blood abnormality next week.

When Hinson does return that won’t mean fewer minutes for K.J. Buffen. He’s cementing his role with the Rebels every time he steps on the floor right now.

Buffen continued his strong early-season play on Tuesday with 23 points and nine rebounds to lead Ole Miss past Norfolk State 68-55 before 6,412 fans at The Pavilion.

The Spartans lost four starters from last year’s 22-win team that won at Alabama in a first-round NIT game, but gave the Rebels trouble with their athleticism in the first half.

Buffen was often able to spin and get to the rim in one bounce. He hit nine of 13 shots.

Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis say he doesn’t see a competition for power forward minutes between Hinson and Buffen.

“I don’t at all. If we get Blake back healthy we may play Blake and K.J. together at the 4 and the 5 and just play two forwards like I did at Middle (Tennessee State) a lot. We may move them around, just two hard-playing guys that can really think.”

Senior guard Breein Tyree had 21 points on 8-for-18 shooting.

Ole Miss was able to string together stops at the end of the first half and stretched a 40-35 lead with points off turnovers on Norfolk’s first two second-half possessions.

The Spartans (2-1) were unable to penetrate against the Rebels (2-0) as well in the second half and were also bothered by a 1-3-1 trap.

Getting into the lane for clean looks Norfolk was shooting above 50 percent much of the first half. The Spartans shot just 24 percent in the second half were just 2-for-12 from 3-point range.

Ole Miss had 24 points off 17 Norfolk turnovers.

“That’s a very well-coached Norfolk State team. They’ve got a good presence about them, and they’re physical,” Davis said.

Twitter: @parrishalford

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