OXFORD, Miss. (Ole Miss Athletics) – Being the final NCAA Division I men's basketball program to begin the 2020-2021 season, the Ole Miss men's basketball made the wait all worth it Thursday night.
The Rebels (1-0) scored early and often, using a smothering defense to open the 2020-2021 season with a 80-45 win at The Pavilion against the Jackson State Tigers.
"It sure was fun for our staff to watch those guys play," Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis said. "The strength of our team is our depth and we're continuing to develop. We were very physical and connected defensively tonight."
Ole Miss forced 26 turnovers and managed to churn 20 points out of them while making the Tigers shoot 30 percent (15 of 50) from the floor.
Devontae Shuler began the season soaring, going 9 for 10 from the floor, including a perfect 5 for 5 mark from three-point land for game-high 23 points.
"We sat back and watch games on TV," Shuler said. "Coach (Davis) prepared us to go out there and play basketball. We were hungry."
Down low, Khadim Sy and KJ Buffen combined for 18 points, going 8 for 10 from the floor and seven rebounds. Several newcomers contributed throughout the night. Graduate transfer Romello White had eight points and six rebounds. Transfer and Oxford native Jarkel Joiner had six points, including his first two points back in his hometown being a slam dunk late in the first half.
In total, 12 different Rebels found buckets with 29 points coming from the bench alone. Ole Miss shot 47.5 percent (29 of 61) from the floor and went on multiple hot streaks offensively and defensively throughout the night.
Both teams traded a few turnovers coming out the tunnel. While the Rebels attacked the paint early on offensively, the Tigers led 6-4 before forcing Davis to call his first timeout. Ole Miss countered with an 20-0 run while forcing numerous turnovers over the next eight minutes. Shuler concluded the first half scorching hot, draining consecutive three-pointers late in the first half.
The Rebels led 41-12 going into the locker room with Shuler and White leading the way with 13 and 8 points, respectively. As a team, Ole Miss forced 18 first half turnovers while shooting 50 percent from the floor.
Ole Miss began the second half with yet another surge, opening with a 12-1 run just over four minutes in. Sy's first made three-pointer made it a 40-point game (55-15), leading to a JSU timeout with 15:45 left to play. The Rebels never looked back to win their first game of the season.
Ole Miss will have one day off before returning to action on Craddock Court, continuing their three-game homestand against UNCW (Dec. 12). Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. CT on SEC Network+ as part of a doubleheader with the Ole Miss women's team.