Ole Miss breaks away from Northern Arizona 80-74
OXFORD, Miss. (AP) Jarvis Summers, point guard for the Mississippi Rebels, likes to think he knows a finished product.
''We're still working. We're still trying to get better,'' Summers said. ''We've got a lot of new players and the main thing is staying focused and buying in to what we're trying to get done and what the coaches tell us. We're getting there.''
The Rebels took a step in the right direction Sunday night, as Summers, a four-year starter and preseason All-SEC selection, scored 22 points as Ole Miss defeated scrappy Northern Arizona 80-74.
Ole Miss (3-1) used a decisive 13-0 run midway through the second half to build an insurmountable 65-51 lead. Stefan Moody and LaDarius White added 13 and 12 points, respectively while the Rebels continued to use an 11-player rotation.
The Rebels drilled 30 of 35 free throws, including 8 of 8 by Moody, to keep Northern Arizona (1-3) from closing any closer than five points in the final minutes. Ole Miss finished 24 of 52 (46 percent) from the field and limited Northern Arizona to 24 of 64 (37 percent).
''Our first shot defense continues to be good. What we haven't done is rebound, scramble and get loose balls, but we did a better job of that tonight,'' Mississippi coach Andy Kennedy said. ''We've still got to get tougher physically.''
Northern Arizona kept it interesting, leading by as many as five points in the first half and pulling within 52-51 on a 3-point shot by Quinton Upshur with 11:01 left. Upshur finished with 19 points for the Lumberjacks. That set up the decisive rally by the Rebels.
''We competed hard, but that 13-0 run did it,'' Northern Arizona coach Jack Murphy said. ''We got some good looks, but the lid was on the basket and their length defensively and ability to get to the free throw line was hard to overcome.''
Jaleni Neely had 17 points and a game-high 8 assists for Northern Arizona while Kris Yanku and Aaseem Dixon added 11 and 10 points, respectively.
The Lumberjacks stayed close by hitting 13 of 31 three-point shots and forcing 16 turnovers.
''Now we get Creighton (Friday) in the Emerald Isle Classic and I saw where they beat 18th-ranked Oklahoma without (Doug) McDermott,'' Kennedy said.
''They're still a great team without him and it's going to take our best game.''
Ole Miss: The Rebels are solid from the free throw line, hitting 76 of 99 attempts, including 19 of 20 from guard Stefan Moody. The last time Ole Miss played in a holiday tournament, they went 2-1 in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic two years ago.
Northern Arizona: Len Springs, the Big Sky Conference leader last season in blocked shots, had did not record a block against the Rebels.
The loss started a four-game road trip for the Lumberjacks, who join Ole Miss at the Emerald Coast Classic Friday and Saturday in Niceville, Florida.
After four games, Ole Miss has 10 players that are averaging more than 13 minutes, but less than 28 minutes per game. Head coach Andy Kennedy said, ''We're four games in now and I've learned a lot about this group. I know we haven't played anywhere close to our best game yet.''
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
''We schedule these type of road games to prepare us for the Big Sky Conference. It doesn't prop up the overall record, but it makes us a better team before conference begins and that's the most important consideration,'' said Northern Arizona coach Jack Murphy, whose club has not won a non-conference road game since November, 2013 at Texas San Antonio.
Ole Miss faces Creighton in the Emerald Coast Classic Friday.
Northern Arizona visits Middle Tennessee Tuesday.