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Friday, December 19, 2014

Rebels roll past Vols in SEC opener

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Ole Miss wanted to prove a point to anyone who argued the Rebels’ fast start was the product of a soft nonconference schedule.

Consider the message delivered.

Southeastern Conference scoring leader Marshall Henderson had a career-high 32 points Wednesday night as Ole Miss trounced Tennessee 92-74 in the league opener for both teams, giving the Rebels their first road victory over the Volunteers in 22 years.

Ole Miss (12-2) had lost 11 straight times to Tennessee in Knoxville since a 93-88 triumph on Feb. 27, 1991.

“I knew it would be different,” Henderson said. “In conference (play), everything gets magnified a little more, especially in the SEC. Coming to Tennessee, I pretty much had this game circled. I was anxious to get to this game.”

Henderson entered the night averaging 18.2 points per game and was ranked second nationally with 4.0 3-pointers per game. The 6-foot-2 junior missed his first eight 3-point attempts Wednesday, but he heated up midway through the second half and continually worked his way to the free-throw line.

“I never lose confidence,” Henderson said. “I could go 0-for-25 and it’s still going up.”

Henderson made back-to-back 3-pointers midway through the second half to break the game open. As he got hotter, he also got louder while celebrating Tennessee’s most one-sided home loss since a 90-72 setback against Kentucky on Jan. 13, 2009.

“At the end of the game, they were laughing and having fun,” Tennessee guard Jordan McRae said. “It’s embarrassing.”

McRae scored 26 points for the second straight game to match his career high. Jarnell Stokes added 15 points and 11 rebounds for Tennessee (8-5), which closed a six-game home stand with its second consecutive loss.

Jarvis Summers had 16 points and Reginald Buckner and Murphy Holloway each recorded double-doubles for Ole Miss. Buckner had 13 points and 15 rebounds. Holloway added 15 points and 12 rebounds.

This game had shaped up as a confrontation between Ole Miss’ high-powered scoring attack and Tennessee’s tenacious defense. Ole Miss headed into conference play leading the SEC with 83.1 points per game, which ranked the Rebels fifth nationally in scoring offense. Tennessee was yielding 58.8 points per game to rank second in the league in scoring defense.

It turned into a mismatch.

Ole Miss exceeded it season scoring average by continually getting to the free-throw line, Tennessee’s usual path to victory.

Good at the line

Tennessee headed into the game having attempted 71 more free throws than its opponents this season, but Ole Miss went 38 of 44 from the line Wednesday while the Vols were 17 of 26. The Rebels’ 38 points from the free-throw line were the most ever by a Tennessee opponent at Thompson-Boling Arena, the Vols’ home floor since 1987-88. Tennessee starters Kenny Hall and Trae Golden both fouled out.

“It was the game plan,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “I didn’t want us to come in here and fall in love with jump shots. We have a tendency to do that. We shoot a bunch of 3s, mainly with 22 (Henderson) over there. I wanted to make sure we put pressure on the paint.”

Ole Miss outrebounded Tennessee 47-32 and outscored the Vols 25-11 in second-chance points.

Tennessee has prided itself on hard-nosed defense ever since Cuonzo Martin took over the program last season, but the Vols have uncharacteristically struggled on that end of the floor during their two-game skid. After not allowing any of their first 11 opponents to score 70 points, the Vols have given up 88.5 points per game in their last two contests.

“Keep grinding,” Martin said. “We have 17 games left. What’s most important is the next game. We’ve got to do everything in our power to win the game, compete and play hard. Those are the things we can control.”

Ole Miss built a double-digit lead in the second half by continuing to draw frequent fouls.

After scoring just three points in the first half, Summers scored nine points in the first three minutes of the second half by driving to the basket and making all five of his free throws.  Ole Miss already was in the bonus with over 14 minutes left in the game and was in the double-bonus midway through the second half.

This marked the third straight time Tennessee faced a double-digit deficit in the second half.

The Vols rallied to beat Xavier 51-47 after trailing by 10 with 17:56 remaining. They erased most of a 21-point margin Friday before falling 85-80 to Memphis. This time, the Vols never mounted much of a comeback. (January 10, 2013, Page 6)

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