Ole Miss cruised to a 71-43 victory over the Arkansas State Red Wolves to open the regular season on Friday night in the Pavilion.
“Our team played extremely hard,” head coach Kermit Davis said.
Ole Miss (1-0) found themselves trailing 4-1 early in the game to Arkansas State prior to going on a 12-unanswered run to pull away and never look back. The Rebels had a smaller lineup in with Breein Tyree, Austin Crowley, Devontae Shuler, KJ Buffen and Sammy Hunter.
“Before Blake (Henson) got hurt we thought we were going to play Blake and KJ at the four and five experienced guys,” Davis said. “I thought Austin came in and gave us a big lift and at that time we played faster in transition.”
Shuler led the Rebels on the floor with 20 points in the contest with three rebounds and two steals.
“Devontae dominated the game on both ends, he just dominated the ball – he disrupted offense even when he didn’t get both hands on the ball … made them start playing offense higher,” Davis said.
The IRMO, S.C. native after one game on the year is averaging 20 points a game.
“Coach has put me into position for me to shot the ball more especially after us losing TD (Terrence Davis),” Shuler said. “Now it’s just me and Breein to step up and take shots and take control of the game being more of a leader.”
Buffen continued his hot streak from the preseason match on Monday as he added 16 points with nine boards, two blocks, three steals and an assist to the stat column.
“(Buffen) is putting what he does in practice into the game,” Davis said. “His attitude is just unbelievable as he allows everybody to coach him as he takes all the blame. He owns everything that comes his way. He has grown up in a year.”
“KJ has improved has he has gotten more aggressive,” Shuler said. “It seems like he is getting more comfortable as he has to step up by going hard in practice.”
The Rebels defense held the Red Wolfs to only 32 percent from the field and forced 23 turnovers.
“It was a good first game for us withholding a team to only 32 percent,” Davis said.
Ole Miss returns to the court on Tuesday night as they play host to Norfolk State. Tip-off is set for 6:30 p.m. on the SEC Network+.