OXFORD • It’s not that Ole Miss basketball doesn’t have an identity right now.
The problem the 9-3 Rebels face as the schedule shifts gears is they don’t have the identity their coach wants them to have.
Ole Miss has been prone to slow starts, scoring droughts and periods of substandard defense.
The Rebels were more dialed in for the second half and were able to overcome first-half issues Sunday, defeating Tennessee Tech 80-63 after trailing the three-win team 32-31 at halftime.
This week’s opponent may not be so forgiving of mistakes. The Rebels play their final game before conference play Saturday at Wichita State.
The Shockers (11-1) are No. 10 in the NCAA NET rankings. They lead the receiving votes category of this week’s Associated Press Top 25.
“All coaches try to get their teams to play to the personality of the head coach. We’re not there yet. I’ve coached over 780 games now. I’ve got flaws in my system too like all coaches, but people who have watched us, I hope they would say Kermit’s teams are tough, and they share the ball. It’s pretty simple. It’s what they’ve always done,” Davis said.
That wasn’t what the Rebels did against Tennessee Tech when they were hurt by dribble-drive penetration and couldn’t get clean looks to fall on the offensive end.
In postgame interviews Davis called out two of his most experienced players – senior guard Breein Tyree and sophomore power forward Blake Hinson.
“I didn’t think Breein really came out with a toughness defensively, and it’s always got to start with your best player on that end,” Davis said.
It was not about defense for Hinson but offense.
He had a career-high 10 rebounds, but Davis sees a player who’s dribbling too much and trying to force things on the offensive end.
Stay in your lane“He’s trying to make some plays that he just doesn’t need to make. He’s a really, really good player. There are NBA players that get paid a ton of money that just do the things that they were signed to do, and Blake’s trying to play out of character.”
Hinson began the day as the Rebels’ second-leading scorer at 13.0 points per game. He was 3 for 6 from the floor, 2 for 4 from 3-point range, but twice stepped out of bounds in the first half and had three turnovers in the second half.
Davis didn’t start Hinson in the second half. He played 24 minutes for the game, five below his average.
Davis was pleased that the Rebels could win by 17 when neither Tyree nor Hinson scored in double figures, but he’s not satisfied with their overall level of play.
“Right now I’ve got to get our team tougher … tougher defensively, tougher rebounding the ball, more connected defensively,” he said.