OXFORD, Miss. – A quarter of the way through the East Tennessee State basketball team’s game against Ole Miss, the Bucs were looking pretty good.
Then reality set in.
With four starters scoring in double figures, Ole Miss pulled away for a 77-55 victory over ETSU Friday night at Tad Smith Coliseum.
“We played a pretty good first 10 minutes,” ETSU coach Murry Bartow said. “But our depth is limited and they turned it up another notch. We just didn’t have much of an answer.”
The scrappy Bucs stayed with Ole Miss for much of the first half, even leading 16-13 midway through. The Rebels took control with a 15-2 run that put them up 28-11. Ole Miss (7-1) finished the first half on a 20-6 stretch over the final nine minutes that gave it a 33-22 halftime lead.
The Rebels opened the second half with a pair of 3-point shots to extend their lead and they were never threatened the rest of the way.
“Our guys competed hard, tried, fought,” Bartow said. “We just didn’t have enough.”
Recently activated Jarvis Jones started at point guard for ETSU, and while he couldn’t find his shot in the early going, he was getting the ball up the court and allowing the Bucs to get into their offense. Once they got into their offense, however, it was much of the same for the ninth-ranked shooting team in the 10-team Atlantic Sun Conference.
The Bucs (2-6) shot 32 percent from the field and missed 10 of their 24 free throws. They finished 5 of 22 from 3-point range after going 1 for 10 in the first half.
ETSU came in with a game plan concentrating on not letting Ole Miss sharpshooter Marshall Henderson get loose for 3-point shots. Henderson still managed to find enough room to score 22 points, making 6 of 13 shots from 3-point range.
“I don’t like giving a guy 22 points, but he takes a lot of hard shots,” Bartow said. “Tonight he made six of them. I thought we were on him pretty tight on some of his makes. He’s a guy who can take hard ones and make hard ones.”
The Bucs mixed in more man-to-man with their usual zone defense and the switch seemed to work well at times as they forced 18 turnovers, something that Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy definitely noticed.
“When you turn the ball over the way we are, it limits our shot opportunities,” Kennedy said. “If we eliminate half of those, we’re where we need to be offensively and we feel better about ourselves. I told the team on Day One, ‘If you value your minutes you’ll value that ball.’ ”
Reginald Buckner added 11 points for Ole Miss while Murphy Holloway and Nick Williams added 10 apiece. Jarvis Summers and Martavious Newby each had six assists for the Rebels.
Jones, who was academically ineligible for the first semester, finished with 11 points and five steals for the Bucs. He made up for lost time, hoisting up 16 shots and making five.
“I felt good, not too rusty,” said Jones, who missed some time in the second half with leg cramps. “I was trying to find my groove. My shot wasn’t working in the first half but I felt better.”
Lester Wilson led ETSU with 14 points. Mario Stramaglia added 11. Hunter Harris grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds. Ole Miss finished with 43 rebounds to ETSU’s 40.
The Bucs were playing without shooting guard Rashawn Rembert, who suffered a concussion during practice earlier in the week.
Ole Miss’ largest lead was 23 points in the final minute.
Doug Sirmons was part of the officiating crew. Sirmons, ETSU fans might remember, was the official who called the critical and controversial technical foul against Kenyona Swader in the closing minutes of the 2008 Atlantic Sun Conference tournament game against Belmont. It was his first Bucs game since the incident.
ETSU plays host to Charleston Southern on Tuesday night at Brooks Gym. It will be a rematch of a game won by ETSU, 59-57, in Charleston three weeks ago.