HED:Rebels sleepwalk past Ala. State, 87-45
By Todd Vinyard
OXFORD - Rod Barnes was ready for some sleep after his first regular-season basketball win as University of Mississippi head coach.
Barnes' Rebels walked past Alabama State 87-45 Friday before a crowd of 3,814 at Tad Smith Coliseum. The season-opening win was a relief to the 32-year-old coach, who came to work at 5:30 a.m. to prepare.
Barnes had been an assistant the last five years under Rob Evans, who left for Arizona State. Now Barnes holds the reins of the two-time SEC Western Division champions.
"I'll sleep tonight," Barnes said. "I didn't sleep much last night with this whole thing going through my mind. I just thank God. It's always been a dream of mine to be a head coach, and I'm glad my first game was a win."
Making it pay
Rebel players were happy to do their part.
"Coach Barnes has been working around the clock and we wanted to make it all pay off," said guard Keith Carter, whose 22 points moved him past Ken Turner (1967-69) to 16th place on the all-time school scoring list at 1,162 points. "We're really looking forward to getting a lot more for him."
It was a group effort for Ole Miss, which has now won 36 of its last 37 games at Tad Smith, with 14 players seeing action and 11 scoring.
Carter and Marcus Hicks, 12 points, were the only Rebels in double figures. Ole Miss had 26 assists. Point guards Michael White and Jason Harrison had 13 assists and no turnovers. Hicks and Harrison, a 5-foot-5 freshman, were two of seven players making their debuts along with Barnes. Harrison scored seven points in 20 minutes of playing time.
"I was nervous throughout the entire game pretty much," Harrison said. "This has always been a dream of mine. We played well as a team."
Barnes was pleased with the first half when Ole Miss (1-0) took a 53-21 lead while shooting 64 percent from the field, but he wasn't satisfied with the Rebels' 42 percent shooting in the second.
"We weren't patient in the second half," Barnes said. "We played a great first half. We forced a lot of turnovers."
Alabama State (0-1) had two turnovers when the Hornets couldn't get the ball past mid-court in 10 seconds. Rob Spivery said his Alabama State team wasn't at full strength.
"This is not the true Alabama State team," Spivery said. "We had seven guys out, including four with major injuries, one playing football, and two because of discipline problems. Five out of those eight are 6-6 or taller, so rebounds were a big concern of mine. All of the defensive pressure took away from our offense."
The visiting Hornets had one player, Corey Williams, in double figures with 11 points.
Rebel Ramblings: Barnes became the fourth straight Ole Miss coach to win in his debut. Evans, Ed Murphy and Lee Hunt all posted victories. The last Rebel coach to lose an opening game was Bob Weltlich, a 70-61 loss to TCU on the road in 1976-77. ... Barnes is the first Rebel head coach to have played his college basketball at Ole Miss since Cob Jarvis. Jarvis was a two-time All-SEC first-teamer in 1953 and 1954. He coached the Rebels from 1968-76 and compiled an 87-117 record. ... Carter bruised his knee running into another player but said he was fine. ... Next up, Ole Miss hosts Belmont at 7 p.m. Monday.