Ole Miss Explodes In Second Half, Rips SMU, 75-57
DALLAS – Facing its toughest competition thus far in a season nearing the midpoint, SMU hung with Ole Miss for a half before the wheels came off. The Rebels blew it open with a 27-9 run to start the second half, led by All-SEC guard Chris Warren, and rolled to an easy win.
The Mustangs stood toe-to-toe with this year’s SEC West favorites and trailed, 32-30, at halftime. Then the Rebels … well, stopped thinking.
“I thought we were very tentative early,” said Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy. “When we stopped trying to think so much and just reacted, and started driving and playing to our strength, I thought we loosened up a little bit.”
“We made a few adjustments [at halftime] as it related to our spacing but the biggest adjustment was just our mindset: ‘Stop thinking so much. Are they in man, are they in zone, are they gonna switch, or they not going to switch?’ Just attack it.”
“Our pressure hurt them a little bit in the second half,” Kennedy said, “which allowed us to get in the open floor where we’re much better. We were able to get some separation.”
The Rebels shot nearly 70 percent in the second half after a high-40s showing in the first, like SMU. But the Mustangs’ percentage dropped from 48 to 39 percent after the break.
SMU ’s Robert Nyakundi led all scorers with 22 points, including six three-pointers. Papa Dia had 10 points, 4 in the second half, and he struggled with free throws, missing 5 of 9. Dia collected a game-high 9 boards.
Warren led Ole Miss with 19 points and Zach Graham added 13. The Rebels out-rebounded SMU, 33-22.
Ole Miss was cheered on by a large, vocal contingent of fans that only got louder as the Rebs pulled away.
SMU president R. Gerald Turner, Ole Miss Chancellor from 1984-95, took it all in from mid-court. What was this match-up like for him?
“When you been at a place like Ole Miss,” Turner said as the game wound down, “you certainly maintain some affections for it. But also, it’s sort of like playing somebody you know real well and it makes you want to win even more.”
“I always root for Ole Miss anytime they’re not playing SMU.”
So what happened to SMU in the second half? “[Ole Miss] stepped up their pressure on us, plus they got hot,” Turner said. “I don’t what they shot the second half, but I’ll bet it’s close to 60-65 percent, and we cooled off. … And we never did really get into our free-throw rhythm.”
“But I was very proud of us in the first half,” Turner said. “[Ole Miss] is clearly one of the better teams in the SEC West. They won it last year. And for us to really stay with them in the first half, and lead most of the first half, I was very proud of them.”
Ole Miss (12-3) opens league play at Florida on Saturday as the Mustangs (9-5) begin C-USA action at Tulane.
Next two for SMU:
*Saturday, Jan. 8, @Tulane, 1 p.m. Central
*Wednesday, Jan. 12, Memphis, 7 p.m. Central
*This was the second meeting between SMU and Ole Miss. The Mustangs won the first game, 94-70, in 1968.
* SMU’s last win over an SEC opponent at Moody Coliseum was Vanderbilt in 1978. ( SMU beat No. 7 Florida at Reunion Arena in 1987.) The last SEC team to visit Moody was Tennessee in 2001. The Vols won, 79-62.
Quotable President Turner
*On which is the better pre-game venue, The Grove at Ole Miss or The Boulevard at SMU: (laughed) “Since I feel like I birthed The Boulevard, I love The Boulevard, obviously. The Grove is really the inspiration for it, but The Boulevard has certainly developed its own character. When Ole Miss people come over here, they’ll come up to me and they’ll say, ‘I know where you got this.’ But they’re always extremely complimentary of it.”
“[The Boulevard] is easier to walk than The Grove because it’s linear. I walk from the base of The Boulevard up to Dallas Hall and back and it never takes me more than an hour and a half, even as I’m greeting people. And you know that you’ve seen them all. That’s a real advantage of The Boulevard. You get a real sense of community with everybody that’s there if you want it.”