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Defense Compensates For Sluggish Offensive Night As Rebels Bounce Back With Win Over Nicholls

A flawed evening on the offensive end of the floor was rectified by Ole Miss’ best defensive performance of this young season as the Rebels bounced back from a loss at Butler with a 75-55 win over Nicholls at The Pavilion on Tuesday night.

The Colonels shot just 34 percent from the field and made 22 field goals.

“We consistently guarded and held them to 31 percent from the field in the first half,” Kermit Davis said. “That is why we got up 15. The second half, I thought we guarded the three point line. That is something last year we were not good at here and in the first two games we were not good at. That has been a harping point.”

Davis was particularly pleased with how senior guard Terence Davis defended Nicholls guard Jeremiah Jefferson, who had just seven points on 3-of-13 shooting. The senior guard is the best scorer on this team and Kermit Davis needs him to be more consistent both scoring and on the defensive end. Terence Davis did not have his most efficient night shooting. He was just 4-of-12 from the field with 14 points to lead the team in scoring.  Not letting the sluggishness on offense bleed into his defensive performance is a sign of maturation for Davis.

“That is the best I have seen Terence Davis guard since I have coached him,” Kermit Davis said. “Can you effect the game and not shoot a high percentage? He did. Eight rebounds, four block and held their leading scorer to seven points on 3-for-13 and 1-for-7 from three… That is when guys evolve. That is when you start getting All-SEC players that affect national games.”

Ole Miss struggled from the field in their own right, shooting just 26-of-54 and 6-of-17 from behind the three point line. The Rebels ended the half on a 9-0 spurt and turned Nicholls over 10 times in the first 20 minutes.

“I thought we left a lot of points out there in the first half, particularly in offensive transition,” Kermit Davis said. “I thought we fumbled balls near the goal and didn’t make great decisions.”

Defense is the area in which Ole Miss was most lacking in when Kermit Davis took control of this program. There was enough scoring in the cupboard to be competitive, but the Rebels were lost and undisciplined on the defensive end, particularly on the perimeter. Butler shot 11-of-26 from the three point line. Nicholls was just 7-of-24 from deep. Improvement is becoming visible.

“That is a place where we struggled mentally last year,” junior point guard Breein Tyree said. “Kermit has made that one of the keys this year. Getting our toes outside the three point line on close outs and making shooters drive the ball, so we are definitely stressing that and trying to get better at.”

The Rebels went small for much of the game. Dominik Olejniczak played just 14 minutes and Bruce Stevens notched an efficient 13 points on 6-of-10 shooting with 5 rebounds in 18 minutes. Freshman K.J. Buffen saw extended time at the five slot, something that Kermit Davis is comfortable doing in non-conference play, but thinks the team will give up too much size and physicality in the post when the competition stiffens. That isn’t a knock on Buffen, who can play three positions. It is just a matter of fact at the moment. Kermit Davis thinks Buffen will be able to play the five in time as the freshman gets stronger.

 Olejniczak has struggled for stretches to begin the season, but Kermit Davis made it clear that Ole Miss needs the seven footer to play well to be the team they want to be.

“We have got to get Dom to go the next play,” Kermit Davis said. “He has to be in there and help us if we want to have the year we want to have.

A lot of it is a lack of confidence and Olejniczak letting blunders linger with him for multiple possessions.

“Stay positive and keep your head up,” Kermit Davis said. “Everyone is pulling for him. He can just have one or two plays in a game that will affect him two days later. He has played well for us and is a huge part of our team. Everyone in that locker room tries to keep Dom going.”

Ole Miss heads to Destin, Florida this weekend to play Baylor and then either Cincinnati or George Mason, another measuring stick for the development of this team.

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