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Eight Observations From Ole Miss Hoops’ Exhibition Win Over Fayetteville State

The Kermit Davis Era tipped off with a 101-52 exhibition win over Fayetteville State on Friday night. The Rebels open the regular season next Saturday at home against Western Michigan. 

Here are eight observations from the win.

Ball Movement:

Ole Miss moved the basketball fluidly and efficiently for most of the game. That, along with more structure on the defensive end, were though to be two that would be evident early in the Kermit Davis Era.  The Rebels worked deeper into the shot clock, a foreign concept for some of the veteran guards used to playing with a different level of shot selection freedom in Andy Kennedy’s system. The team had 29 assists on 43 made baskets.

Davis mentioned on Wednesday he was pleased with how the Rebels moved the ball in a scrimmage against Murray State and was satisfied again on Friday. 

“I hoped the ball movement stood out,” Kermit Davis said. “Playing against a team like that, the stats were probably right. They shot 28 percent. We shot nearly 60 percent. I did think the way the ball was moved, a couple times it stuck, but I think we are starting to become a more unselfish team.”

Zone Defense:

Kermit Davis’ staple on defense his 1-3-1 zone. Though there were a number of breakdowns in the middle portion of the game in particular, the team looked more organized on the defensive end for the entirety of the game.  Ole Miss forced 15 Fayetteville State turnovers. The zone will certainly be a different look and how Davis uses the personnel he has this season will be interesting, particularly on the perimeter.

“To start the game I thought it was good,” Kermit Davis said. “I thought for the most part, we tried to make the make tough two point shots, which is what we are trying to do.

Trio of freshmen provide length on perimeter:

Ole Miss has some length on the perimeter with the likes of 6-foot-7 freshmen KJ. Buffen and Blake Hinson, along with 6-foot-6 Luis Rodriguez. The length at guard is certainly a different look than year’s past and gives the team in interesting blend of length and quickness when Breein Tyree, Terence Davis Devontae Shuler factored in.  

A couple of them can slide to the four if Kermit Davis wants to go small.

Davis scores 20 points, no turnovers: 

Terence Davis led the team in scoring with 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting. He grabbed nine rebounds and had a steal.  He had 4 assists and no turnovers, perhaps the most telling stat to gauge his play.

Kermit Davis has made no bones about it: Terence Davis will need to be a more consistent scorer and a much better defender in order for this team to have success. On this night, Kermit Davis seemed pleased that his senior guard did not turn the basketball over.  

Shuler Playing Point Guard:

Sophomore guard Devontae Shuler saw some time at point guard in the first half, something that Kermit Davis thinks he will need to do in spurts this season out of necessity. Shuler finished with 11 points and 3 assists on 4-of-6 shooting. Shuler was the probably team’s best defender last season, a title that will be more difficult to retain this season with some of the younger guards Kermit Davis has brought in.  

“Devontae needs to get better,” Kermit Davis said. “He needs to be able to get into the paint. I thought I would see him in the paint more.”

Kermit Davis said he thinks Shuler can become an elite defender.

Buffen’s flashes court vision:

K.J. Buffen distributed the basketball well in this game. One one of the first three possessions of the game, he generated in the lane and dished it behind the helping defender to Dominik Olejniczak for a dunk. He finished with nine assists and appears to have pretty advanced floor vision for a freshman.

“I think you saw what K.J. Buffen can do,” Kermit Davis said. “His skill level is really high.”  

Starting lineup:

Starters were Tyree, Buffen, Davis, Olekniczak and Blake Hinson. Hot take: this is not etched in stone.  Kermit Davis noted that Shuler did not start because he missed a tutor earlier in the week. 

Stevens Drops weight, looks more mobile:

Bruce Stevens’ biggest challenge this offseason was to drop weight in order to be an adequate defender. He has done that and it is visible. If Stevens can guard the four position efficiently, it will allow Kermit Davis to use Stevens and Olejniczak at the same time at the four and five slots. Kermit Davis’ offense will feature more post touches and so far the two bigs have responded well, Davis thinks.

“Bruce is so skilled,” Kermit Davis said. “He is going to make a lot of threes this year at the four. I thought both of those guys cut hard. I thought we delivered the ball in good places where they could score.

Stevens said he just feels better and more mobile in general with the weight loss. 

“He is going to try to put me at the four with Dom at the five,” Stevens said. “It is going to be totally different this year.”

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