OXFORD, Miss. – Mississippi coach Kermit Davis sensed his Rebels were stuck in neutral after the opening 10 minutes against Western Michigan on Friday, so he opted for a defensive change. Good choice. Mississippi guards Breein Tyree and Devontae Shuler scored 20 and 16 points, respectively, and combined to spark a decisive 16-0 first-half run as the Rebels defeated Western Michigan 85-58.
“We came out flat and Western Michigan came out confident,” Davis said. “Once we changed defenses, used a trap and some different looks, I thought it changed the game and we competed well in the last six or eight minutes of the first half and got in transition. We can be good when we get in transition.”
Luis Rodriguez added 10 points and a team-high six rebounds for Ole Miss (3-0), which led 40-32 at halftime and opened the second half with a 11-2 run that ended any Western Michigan (3-1) comeback hopes.
“When we get after it defensively, we can be really scary, really good,” Rodriguez said. “When one of us steps up and leads, it’s like a domino effect. Somebody else steps up. We have to do that to be successful.”
Brandon Johnson and Michael Flowers scored 21 and 14, respectively, for the Broncos (3-1), who led 16-8 in the opening 10 minutes. Western Michigan shot 20 of 59 (33%) from the field, 5 of 32 (15%) from 3-point range and 13 of 17 (77%) from the free-throw line.
Ole Miss shot 32 of 61 (52%), 5 of 15 (33%) from 3-point range and 16 of 20 (80%) from the free-throw line. The Rebels outrebounded the Broncos 38-33 while forcing 19 turnovers, 13 in the second half.
Western Michigan: Coming off an uncharacteristic 8-24 season, the Broncos looked more like the Steve Hawkins-coached teams that won eight Mid-American Conference West titles in the past 15 seasons, at least in the first half. Johnson and Flowers are a formidable one-two punch offensively, but the Broncos had difficulty stopping Ole Miss from penetrating to the basket and had no answers in the second half.
Ole Miss: The Rebels keep winning and using multiple player combinations – but the perimeter combination of Shuler and Tyree continues to impress most. The Rebels rotated three freshmen inside – Khadim Sy, Carlos Curry and Sammy Hunter – with each providing solid minutes and productive numbers. Shuler had seven points to start the early 16-0 run and the Rebels never looked back.
“We got the ball to the right people and took the right shots. Tonight, we just could not get those shots to drop,” Western Michigan coach Hawkins said. “The defensive intensity and scheme and tempo of Ole Miss had a lot to do with that. A lot.”
Western Michigan: Hosts Alma College on Tuesday.
Ole Miss: Hosts Seattle on Tuesday.