In what very well could be their best game of the year, Ole Miss defeated Tennessee 92-74 in Knoxville on Wednesday. The conference-opener victory is the first in the Andy Kennedy era. For it to come on the road against the preseason No. 4 team in the conference speaks volumes of the potential of this particular team.
It appeared as though the Volunteer players were instructed to make the Rebels beat them from the free throw line, a nightmare of sorts for the Rebels this year. Ole Miss shot a season-high 44 free throws, 16 more than Tennessee. The Vols tallied 27 team fouls, with six players who had at least 3 fouls, including Kenny Hall and Trae Golden who fouled out. The plan backfired with the Rebels going an astounding 38-44 from the line, a major catalyst in their victory.
Marshall Henderson led the way, making 13-14 free throws and finishing with a season-high 32 points. Despite shooting 3-12 from deep, Henderson was able to contribute to the team on offense by driving and getting to the line, a place where he is 87.3 percent this year. He played with his usual high-intensity emotion, something that the rebels will need this weekend against No.10 Missouri.
Reginald Buckner and Murphy Holloway each recorded double-doubles and shot surprisingly well from the line. Buckner scored 13 points (including 7-9 on free throws) and grabbed 15 rebounds. Holloway had 15 points, 12 rebounds, and 2 steals in the game was 7-8 from the stripe.
Jarvis Summers added his season-high in points with 16. It was just the fourth time this season that Summers has turned the ball over twice in a game (never more than two), continuing his terrific floor general persona. Despite adding just 2 points and 1 assist, Derrick Millinghaus played well in 11 minutes, providing a spark for the offense while not turning the ball over once.
The lone negative for Ole Miss seemed to be the fact that the foul problems continue to plague them. Buckner fouled out, Aaron Jones had 4, Summers, Holloway, and Nick Williams had 3 each. For the Rebels to be successful, all five of those guys need to be registering big minutes.
It was critical for Ole Miss to limit Tennessee’s outside game, and Kennedy’s bunch did just that. Ole Miss held UT to just 26.9 percent, below their season average. The Rebels also won a crucial rebounding battle, 41-31 led by Buckner and Holloway.
Jordan McRae kept his hot streak going, scoring 26 points for the second consecutive game. Jarnell Stokes led the team in rebounds with 11 to go along with his 15 points. Golden’s shooting struggles continued as he scored just 11 points, but he did add 5 assists to go with just 1 turnover.
Tennessee dropped to 8-5 and 0-1 in the conference with the loss. The Vols will look to get back on track when they travel to Tuscaloosa to take on Alabama (8-6, 0-1), losers of 6 of their last 8. The game starts at noon on Saturday on ESPN2.
Ole Miss improved to 12-2 and 1-0 in conference with the victory, putting them in a virtual tie for first with their Saturday opponent., No.10 Missouri (12-2, 1-0). Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. CT from Tad Smith Coliseum.