Mississippi beats Northwestern State 90-76 in opener
OXFORD, Miss. (AP) Mississippi coach Andy Kennedy knew he would have to rely on guard Stefan Moody to carry the Rebels during the early section of the season. Moody did not let him down Friday night.
Moody scored a career-high 29 points, added five rebounds and five assists as the Rebels defeated Northwestern State 90-76 in the season opener for both clubs. The Rebels placed four players in double figures and never trailed.
''He did exactly what we ask of him,'' Kennedy said. ''It's a weight he has to carry right now, but we expect that to change as the season goes on.
''We got him some help as we got deeper in the game.''
Sebastian Saiz scored 16 points and added a career-high 14 rebounds, while Sam Finley and Rasheed Brooks added 16 and 11 points, respectively.
The Rebels led 38-32 at halftime and preserved the lead in the second half on the strength of a 24-of-28 (85.7 percent) performance from the free-throw line.
Northwestern State countered with the guard combination of Jalen West, who scored 24 of his 25 points in the second half, and Zeek Woodley with 22 points. West limped to the bench in the final minute.
''We battled and put ourselves in position, but we weren't able to make the plays we had to make to give ourselves an opportunity at the end,'' Northwestern State coach Mike McConathy said. ''As far as Jalen's status, he is still being evaluated. That's all I know.''
The Rebels built a 13-2 lead in the opening six minutes as Northwestern State missed 13 consecutive shots from the field. The Demons finished 25 of 70 (35.7 percent) from the field, but managed to pull within 58-55 with 10:31 left on a pair of free throws by West.
''What a player (West) he is,'' said Kennedy. ''He made some incredible shots to keep them hanging around and they are an outstanding team. I thought we answered by hitting free throws and not turning the ball over.''
The strong free-throw shooting by the Rebels complemented a 29-of-61 (47.5 percent) night from the field. The Rebels outrebounded the Demons 44-36 and had only four turnovers in the second half.
Ole Miss went on a 12-4 run that rebuilt the lead to 70-59 with 7:52 remaining. Moody had four baskets and the Rebels closed with nine consecutive free throws in the final eight minutes to keep Northwestern State at a safe distance.
''There were a lot of positive things tonight,'' Kennedy said. ''The most positive thing is this is a quality win.''
Mississippi: The Rebels have won 18 of the last 20 home openers. ... During a 28-minute span that covered each half, Ole Miss had only one turnover.
Northwestern State: West hit seven consecutive shots from the field, including four from 3-point range, to open the second half for Northwestern State.
Ole Miss had a 12-4 run to build a 70-59 lead with 7:52 left, highlighted by a pair of Saiz baskets inside and a 3-point shot from Brooks. The Demons never got closer than eight points again.
Both teams had dominating performance from their two guards. Moody and Finley combined for 45 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and four steals for the Rebels. Northwestern State's combination of West and Woodley totaled 47 points, seven rebounds, eight assists and a steal.
Mississippi hosts Georgia Southern on Monday.
Northwestern State hosts LSU-Alexander in its home opener Monday.