In a seesaw game that became a tournament trademark for Ole Miss, a late surge pushed them to an 81-66 victory over Hawaii.
Andy Kennedy’s club has battled adversity all tournament, trailing at halftime in all three contests. Give all three were against teams that the Rebels were favored against, it was good to see the Rebels rebound for a pair of wins.
In the first game against Indiana State, Ole Miss put themselves in a position to win the game, but fell short after squandering every opportunity they had. Against San Francisco, it was a key stretch of clutch free throws that led the Rebels to a win, going 10-12 in the final two minutes. On Tuesday, it was opportunistic defense paired with unselfish basketball at the end of the game that helped the Rebels prevail.
Tied at 63 with 3:55 left, the Rebels played their best basketball of the season, closing the game on an 18-3 run. Ole Miss was 6-7 from the field, 6-7 from the line, and forced three turnovers. The surge was led by an unlikely hero, Aaron Jones. Finishing with 10 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 blocks, he saved his best basketball for last. During the 18-3 run, Jones scored 6 points and grabbed a steal that led to a fast break dunk by Nick Williams.
The other two big men for the Rebels had contrasting production, but both likely got an earful from Kennedy. Murphy Holloway scored 18 points and grabbed 9 rebounds, bringing his tournament total up to 57 points and 35 rebounds. Two things that stuck in his coach’s craw were the amount of free throws he missed (2-7 from the line), but more importantly, his dunk as time was running out.
With the ceremonially concession that goes along with every double-digit loss, Hawaii backed off the Rebels to let the time run off. Holloway dribbled around, appeared to grow antsier by the moment, then with Kennedy yelling in seemingly slow motion, Holloway ran up and dunked the ball with 2 seconds remaining. The dunk drew boos from the crowd and a less than savory reaction from the Hawaii coaching staff.
Reginald Buckner had no problems with Kennedy about his sportsmanship, but his on-the-court game had to have riled up his coach. Buckner had just 4 points and 1 rebound to follow up his 7 point and 3 rebound dud against San Francisco. He had just two more combined points+rebounds (15) than he did turnovers+fouls (13).
Staying on the court is vital for Buckner, as he commits too many boneheaded fouls on the defensive end. He had two of those against Hawaii when he wrapped his arm around an opponent on a layup with 3 fouls, then tried to take a charge with 4 fouls. He’s too good to be sitting on the bench when SEC play rolls around.
Jarvis Summers, another Rebel who has struggled with foul trouble, only had a pair of fouls on the day, the first game in over a month where Summers has had under three in a game. He finished the game with 7 points, 6 assists, and 2 steals, exactly the type of game Kennedy needs from him.
Marshall Henderson played his most controlled game of the season against the Warriors. He had 16 points on 4-8 shooting, and set his feet for every shot that he took. All four of his threes were made in the first 12 minutes of the game, then he used himself as a decoy. The Warriors provided help every time Henderson would come around a screen, putting two men on him at a time. This left a man open, which allowed the Rebels to move the ball around and get easy buckets.
Williams also had 16 points and 5 rebounds in the victory. After starting the game 1-11 from the field, Williams played well towards the end, scoring 11 points in the final 13 minutes. Snoop White and Derrick Millinghaus each added 5 points off the bench.
Vander Joaquim had the best game of his career in the loss, scoring 27 points to go along with 15 rebounds. He also had a pair of monster blocks in his game-high 38 minutes. The game plan was to get Joaquim the ball early and often, as he shot the ball 21 times from the field.
Isaac Fotu added 11 points in limited action after a flagrant foul on Snoop White. Christian Standhardinger scored 10 points, grabbed 5 boards, and dished out 4 assists. Jace Tavita had 8 assists off the bench as well.
Hawaii is the largest team that the Rebels will face all season, and it showed on the rebounding count. The Warriors outrebounded Ole Miss 37-28, including 14-8 on the offensive glass. Ole Miss dropped all the way to 22nd in the nation in rebounding after the game.
The Rebels made use of their ability to force turnovers on Tuesday, winning the turnover battle 15-8. They seemed a lot more disciplined offensively and while no Rebel turned it over more than twice, three different Hawaii players turned it over three times or more.
Neither team is known for their free throw shooting, but both shot the ball well from the charity stripe. Each team shot 80 percent, the second consecutive game 80 percent game for the Rebels.
Hawaii is now 6-5 on the season and will play their first ever Big West conference game on Sunday when they take on conference-leading Cal State Northridge at 7:30 p.m. local time.
Ole Miss moved to 10-2 with the victory, joining Missouri as the only SEC teams with double-digit victories. Kennedy’s club will close out their nonconference slate on Jan. 4 with a home game against Fordham at 8 p.m. CT.