Mississippi coach Kermit Davis spoke quietly in the postgame press conference. His Rebels spoke loud and clear on the court Saturday in an 87-57 win over Florida Gulf Coast.
“We finished undefeated in December and that’s hard to do. I don’t care who you are,” Davis said. “We’ve played six of eleven games away from home and we’re 10-2 and undefeated in December. We’ve still got progress to make, but I like where we are right now.”
Terence Davis scored 20 points as Mississippi placed five players in double figures. The Rebels raced to a 7-0 lead in the opening four minutes and were never seriously threatened.
Breein Tyree scored 14 points, while Devontae Shuler, Bruce Stevens and Blake Hinson added 11 apiece for the Rebels (10-2), who won their seventh consecutive game. Davis had a team-high six rebounds and added two assists.
“Our energy level was really good early,” Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis said. “Florida Gulf Coast is talented offensively and we were able to take them out of a lot of things they do well. Getting 31 baskets on 22 assists means we’re moving the ball.”
RaySean Scott Jr. scored 18 points with nine rebounds and Dinero Mercurius added 12 points for the Eagles (5-10). Scott was 8 of 10 from the field, but the Eagles finished 21-of-52 shooting (40 percent), including 6 of 16 (37 percent) from 3-point range.
“Losing isn’t acceptable here, but it was positive that after we got down early, we competed to get back in it,” Florida Gulf Coast coach Michael Fly said. “That run at the end of the first half and the start of the second half, we played hard but just didn’t have enough to get back in it.”
Ole Miss added to the early 7-0 run with a 22-6 spurt that spanned seven minutes of the first and second halves to take control. The Rebels led 44-26 at halftime and by as many as 37 points, 85-48 on a Zach Naylor dunk with 3:08 remaining.
The Rebels shot 31 of 60 (52 percent) from the field, including 12 of 25 (48 percent) from the 3-point line with Davis and Tyree sinking three apiece.
Ole Miss was 13 of 18 (72 percent) from the free-throw line and outrebounded the Eagles 37-28.
Florida Gulf Coast: Leading scorer Schadrac Casimir (12.3 points per game) struggled, scoring two points and finishing with four turnovers. Despite a strong performance from Scott, FGC simply did not have enough offensive weapons to keep pace. The Eagles finished 9 of 12 (75 percent) from the free-throw line to stay within striking distance until the final four minutes of the first half.
Ole Miss: The only thing that did not go right for the Rebels was an ankle injury to KJ Buffen midway through the second half. The freshman forward left the playing floor for the dressing room under his own power after recording five rebounds and a pair of blocked shots in 16 minutes. His injury was termed not serious in the postgame press conference.
UNDER THE RADAR
Picked to finish last in the SEC in the preseason media poll, the Rebels lead the SEC in field-goal shooting (51 percent) and free-throw shooting (76 percent) and appear much improved defensively.
January will determine if Ole Miss has been overlooked. The Rebels’ SEC schedule includes four SEC road games, including arch rival and No. 19 Mississippi State and home dates with No. 12 Auburn and Iowa State in the Big12/SEC Challenge.
“It’s going to be tough when conference play starts on Saturday. We know that,” Davis said. “We expect to keep improving and find out a lot about ourselves over the next two months.”
Florida Gulf Coast should be well prepared for Atlantic Sun Conference portion of the schedule beginning in January. Prior to losses against Florida and Ole Miss of the SEC, the Eagles opened with five games against teams that won regular-season conference championships or played in championship tournament games last season, finishing 2-3.
Florida Gulf Coast: The Eagles host Liberty to begin Atlantic Sun Conference play on Jan. 5.
Ole Miss: The Rebels travel to Vanderbilt in the SEC opener for both teams on Jan. 5.
Source: The Associated Press