OXFORD • After a string of close home losses and a 1-7 SEC record, Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis was looking for a dude off his bench to make an impact.
He found one against South Carolina.
Freshman forward Antavion Collum, known as “Dude” to friends and teammates, had five rebounds, three assists and made other “non-box score” plays in the Rebels’ 84-70 win over South Carolina on Wednesday.
The Rebels (11-11, 2-7 SEC) are at home today at 1 p.m. against Florida (14-8, 6-3 SEC) in a game that will air on ESPN2.
Florida defeated Ole Miss 71-55 in Gainesville on Jan. 14. The Rebels were without starters Breein Tyree and Khadim Sy in that game.
Davis says he prefers an eight-player rotation, but it hasn’t quite reached that in recent games.
“When we were trying to play 10 guys our team would play poorly,” Davis said. “We’re going to try to play eight guys. Those eight could change based on practice. Dude’s been practicing better.”
It looked like a seven-player rotation at Georgia and at home against Auburn as freshman forward Sammy Hunter played only two minutes in those games.
Hunter played more at LSU, and so did others as the entire Ole Miss frontcourt got in early foul trouble and eventually fouled out.
Collum’s own improved practice habits plus a knee injury that could sideline Hunter for a couple of weeks has opened the door for Collum, a three-star signee from Memphis.
“Coming in I felt like I wasn’t a good practice player. This has made me a better practice player. Your game time depends on your practice time,” he said.
Collum earned five minutes amid the Rebels’ wave of fouls at LSU. With Hunter out of the picture, he stayed on the floor longer against South Carolina, 21 minutes total.
One of his assists was an impressive bounce pass from the high post to the low post to find Tyree on a back door cut for a bucket and a foul.
Collum did more than up his practice intensity. He approached Davis for a private chat.
“Because I didn’t play for about five games straight I went to him, and I asked him, ‘So what do I need to do to get in the games?’ He told me, ‘Just focus on the small things. Do the little things. Play physical.’ I did that in the game,” he said.