Notes and thoughts from a 72-61 win over Auburn …
It was good to get in the SEC win column.
The Rebels had lost only to Alabama in conference play, but the Wichita State game had a conference game feel about it, and Ole Miss was unable to close that one out.
Last night they withstood an Auburn run and made the plays down the stretch to win.
As it turns out Alabama has won at Tennessee and throttled Florida at home since beating Ole Miss. That season-opening loss for the Rebels is looking less ugly each time the Tide takes the floor.
Kermit Davis’ assessment of his team before the Auburn game was that it was a couple of plays from being 7-1 instead of 5-3.
That’s true, but this doesn’t feel like a team that’s a whole lot better than its current 6-3 record, and that’s because offense remains a struggle even though some shots fell last night.
A personality for this team is emerging, and it’s one that requires the Rebels to be very good defensively to win games. They were not against Alabama and Wichita State.
They were a lot better against Auburn, limiting the Tigers to 36.1 percent shooting.
Auburn hit seven of its first 11 shots which means it hit just 15 of its last 50 (30 percent).
Auburn, playing with five new starters this season, looked like it had never seen a 1-3-1.
It’s that kind of effort-based, active hands, turnover-forcing defense that Ole Miss has to play when offense is hit and miss.
You have to have games like 10 assists from Devontae Shuler and 10 rebounds from Austin Crowley.
Crowley also had eight points on 4-for-6 shooting. That was a lift, and he needs to become a consistent producer at that level.
Last night he was talking about wanting to impact the game in any way possible.
It was a good step up for Crowley.
While Shuler did impact the game he needs to impact it more as a scorer. He needs to shoot better than 3 for 10 from the floor and 1 for 6 from 3. Ole Miss depends on him as a scorer.
The Rebels might depend on him less if either or both of Jarkel Joiner or Matthew Murrell elevate their games.
Last night those two guards were a combined 1 for 12 from the floor.
They are key components of the offense, and this team will have to rely on the blue-collar defensive approach to winning unless they begin to hit shots more consistently.
Joiner had done that for a couple of games going 7 for 10 against Tennessee (the Martin branch) and 5 for 11 against Alabama, but the last two games he’s taken a step back. Against Wichita State and Auburn he’s a combined 4 for 17 (23 percent).
Ole Miss was 6 for 16 from 3 in the first half last night, but three of those 3 balls came from Khadim Sy.
It’s great to have Sy healthy and back on the floor, and it’s great if the 3 ball becomes his role, but it hasn’t been. Last night Sy from the arc was something extra. In my native land they call that lagniappe. Three 3s from Sy were a career-high by far. He’d hit one 3-pointer in a game eight other times but never more than one.
Grad transfer Romello White has given Ole Miss a physical scoring option in the paint that it hasn’t had in some time.
If Sy becomes a consistent 3-point threat that’s great, the Rebels need it, but right now Sy from the arc is an isolated incident and not a trend.
Overall, it was good to get in the SEC win column especially with last year’s 0-5 SEC start still fresh in the memory.
The Rebels conclude a three-game homestand Saturday at 5 against South Carolina.