BLOG — Ole Miss exorcised some mid-major demons on Saturday.
Guard Jarvis Summers scored a game-high 25 points while Marshall Henderson, LaDarius White and Aaron Jones each finished in double figures, and Ole Miss notched what’s been an elusive victory over Middle Tennessee State recently with a 72-63 win at C.M. “Tad” Smith Coliseum to snap a two-game losing skid.
Forward Shawn Jones recorded a double-double for MTSU, scoring 18 points and pulling down 15 boards. Neiko Hunter matched Jones’ 18 points while Jaqawn Raymond chipped in eight points.
The Blue Raiders, in their first year as a member of Conference USA after making the move from the Sun Belt, have been a thorn in the Rebels’ side, winning the last four meetings between the teams before Saturday, including games in 2011 and 2012.
Ole Miss’ lineup got a bit of a shakeup as Henderson started for the first time this season after coming off the bench in the Rebels’ previous seven games. Ladarius White also drew just his second start. But it was Summers, the only Rebel to reach double figures in the first half with 12 points, who paced an offense that knocked down 40 percent of its shots, including 38.9 percent from 3-point range, in Ole Miss’ first victory over an NCAA Tournament team from a season ago.
“I think that’s our best win of the year. That’s how much respect I have for (MTSU coach) Kermit (Davis) and Middle,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “I thought we played pretty well at stretches in the first half, and you look up, and now all of a sudden, you’re behind. They got into an Oregon-type flow where we had trouble getting stops. … I thought down the stretch, we probably played our best three or four minutes to win this game by nine when we were down by three or four and kind of on our heels.”
Said Summers, “I really just came out there just being aggressive. Our team really wasn’t playing well in the first half, so I just thought by me being a leader, I’d just go out there and do what I’ve got to do.”
MTSU (7-3) shot just 36 percent in the second half but gave itself a chance with second and third opportunities with 48 rebounds compared to Ole Miss’ 27. The Blue Raiders erased a 10-point deficit less than two minutes into the second half with a 20-8 spurt to take their first lead of the final 20 minutes at 50-48 on a layup from Tweety Knight.
“They beat us by 21 on the glass,” Kennedy said. “That’s embarrassing.”
But Ole Miss (7-2) stopped the bleeding with 13 of the game’s next 23 points to reclaim the lead at 61-60 on one of Henderson’s four 3-pointers. The teams went back and forth for the next four minutes with the Rebels clinging to a 66-63 lead until Henderson’s final 3 gave Ole Miss a two-score cushion with 30 seconds left.
“Any shot Marshall takes up, I feel like it’s going in because he’s put the work in,” Summers said. “We’re comfortable with him shooting shots. He did a lot for us last year, and he’s still doing it. Everybody’s just comfortable with what he do.”
Henderson finished with 15 points while White had 11. Jones had 10 points and grabbed four rebounds.
See Monday’s edition of the EAGLE for complete coverage of the Rebels’ win. (December 14, 2013)