OXFORD • Ole Miss overcame a lackluster first half to post its fourth-straight win with an 80-63 victory against Tennessee Tech before 7,261 fans at The Pavilion on Sunday afternoon.
Ultimately K.J. Buffen and Devontae Shuler hit a stride, each finishing with 20 points, as the Rebels opened up a 20-point lead with 6 minutes, 38 seconds left to play.
The Rebels improved to 9-3 as the schedule shifts gears with the new year.
Ole Miss debuted last week in the NCAA’s NET Rankings at 52 and visits No. 10 Wichita State on Saturday. Three days later SEC play opens at Texas A&M.
The Tennessee Tech (3-10) team that troubled the Rebels for 20 minutes began the day with a net ranking of 313.
The Golden Eagles, led by former Arkansas coach John Pelphrey, have posted wins against little-known foes Martin Methodist, Winthrop and Reinhardt.
“It was just embarrassing … ball movement, body language. Our jump shooting affected us defensively,” Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis said. “The last six or seven minutes we played better. Simple ball screen coverage to start the game … they just looked faster than we did.”
The Rebels trailed by as many as six points in the latter stages of the first half before inching back to a 32-31 deficit at the break.
They shot 41.4 percent and just 1 for 12 from 3-point range.
Rebels warm up
Things changed after halftime.
The Rebels began to get power moves from Buffen that they lacked in the first half, and they warmed up from the outside as well hitting 6 for 11 from 3-point range.
In one second-half stretch the Rebels went on a 9-0 run with makes on six of seven attempts while holding Tech to 2 for 10 shooting over the same span.
The Rebels took the lead for good on a Shuler 3 with 18 minutes, 8 seconds left to make it 38-37. He also had five assists.
Ole Miss hit 11 of its first 16 shots in the second half.
“I just think we were focusing on offense and not really playing defense or rebounding the ball,” Shuler said. “They came out with more pop, but we got going in the second half.”