For the first time under first-year head coach Kermit Davis, Ole Miss felt pressured by an opponent in its own building in a 90-70 win over Chattanooga.
A 16-3 run from the Mocs to close the first half sent the Rebels to the locker room trailing 39-37. Chattanooga jumped out to a quick 45-39 lead, and then Ole Miss responded to the first —albeit very small — dosage of adversity it has faced at home this year.
“I had a sneaky feeling after watching that team on tape, (Chattanooga head coach) Lamont’s (Paris) teams gotten better over the last three or four games and I expected it,” head coach Kermit Davis said. “It was the first time we have really been tested at home.”
How did the Rebels respond? By rattling off a 28-0 run sparked by four consecutive made three pointers, two of which came from junior guard Breein Tyree who scored 18 of his 20 points in the second half to lead the Rebels in scoring along with Terence Davis, who also had 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting.
Tyree spent much of the first half on the bench after picking up two quick fouls and knew the team needed to have more of a sense of after the way the first half ended.
“When the team is down two against a team we are expected to beat, that kind of gets me going,” Tyree said. “It makes me energetic an want to come out and give my team some pop.”
Ole Miss was 19-of-30 from the field as a team in the second half and 7-of-11 from behind the three point line. In some ways, the first half showed what Ole miss struggles with — defensive breakdowns and defending the three point line in particular. The second half showed why this team is intriguing. It has three experienced guards in Tyree, Davis and Devontae Shuler that can score in bunches. Each of them buried a triple in the 12-0 run that sparked the eventual 28-0 run to take control of the game.
“When we play like that, it is hard to stop us,” Tyree said.
This was a game that the Rebels would have to battle against being lethargic. A 5 P.M. tip on a Sunday afternoon against a sub-500 opponent is not conducive to naturally producing energy. Ole Miss got up 12 in the first half before relaxing and Chattanooga punished the Rebels for letting their foot off the gas. Kermit Davis was pleased with the way the team responded to that.
“It was my first time as a coach at Ole Miss to get down in the second half at home and watch our players and fans respond,” Kermit Davis said. “To me, that was a cool thing to see. You saw the fanbase got into it. They were a big part of our run. I have been through some runs, though I don’t know about a 28-0 run.. It was good. I was proud of our players for responding.”
Kermit Davis elected to start D.C. Davis in place of Terence Davis in the second half in an effort to spark the team. It worked and Terence Davis responded well to the change.
“What I enjoyed was watching TD respond to that in a mature and good way,” Kermit Davis said.
The win propelled the Rebels to 8-2 on the year. The team goes Nashville on Friday to play Middle Tennessee State in Bridgestone Arena. Tipoff is set for 7 P.M.